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Mobile data traffic growth outlook

In 2023, monthly global mobile data traffic will surpass 100 ExaBytes (EB).


Key findings

  • Total mobile data traffic is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 42%
  • In North America, traffic per smartphone is expected to increase from 7.1GB per month at the end of 2017 to 48GB by the end of 2023
  • There will be 11 times more mobile data traffic in India in 2023
  • Monthly global mobile data traffic will surpass 100EB in 2023

Monthly mobile data traffic per smartphone continues to increase in all regions. North America has the highest usage, and traffic is expected to reach 7.1 GigaBytes (GB) per month per smartphone by the end of the year and increase to 48GB by the end of 2023. Western Europe has the second highest usage, with traffic set to reach 4.1GB by the end of 2017 and 28GB by the end of 2023. Western Europe will be the region with the highest growth rate in monthly mobile data traffic per smartphone during the forecast period.

The high average usage in India – estimated to reach 3.9GB per month per smartphone at the end of 2017 – is mainly due to an introductory LTE offer by an operator during the latter half of 2016, which included free voice and data traffic. Data traffic is expected to continue to grow, reaching 18GB per month per smartphone in 2023.

Factors that will drive higher usage in general include an increase in the number of LTE subscriptions, improved device capabilities and more affordable data plans, as well as an increase in data-intensive content. As virtual reality and augmented reality technologies are more widely adopted, content will become even more data intensive.

Data traffic per active smartphone (GigaBytes per month)

Total mobile data traffic is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 42 percent

Total mobile data traffic for all devices is anticipated to increase by 8 times during the forecast period, reaching around 110EB per month by the end of 2023. At close to 85 percent, data traffic generated by smartphones is already accounting for the largest proportion of mobile data traffic. Going forward, smartphone data traffic will become even more dominant, and is expected to increase by 9 times during the forecast period to account for close to 95 percent of total mobile data traffic by the end of 2023.

Global mobile data traffic (ExaBytes per month)
Global mobile data traffic (ExaBytes per month)

North East Asia is set to keep the largest share of global mobile data traffic

North East Asia is the most populous region and as such has the largest share of global mobile data traffic – 23 percent by the end of 2017. This will continue into 2023, when total mobile data traffic in the region is forecast to reach 21EB per month. South Korea and Japan engaged in early deployment of LTE with fast uptake, and markets like Singapore and Hong Kong are also highly advanced. The rapid growth in mobile broadband subscriptions is expected to continue. China is set to add 420 million mobile broadband subscriptions by the end of 2023, driving data traffic to 15EB per month.

In India, total mobile data traffic per month is expected to increase by 11 times during the forecast period to exceed 14EB in 2023. The strong growth in LTE subscriptions and increasing smartphone penetration, as well as the demand for data-intensive applications like video, will drive usage. In South East Asia and Oceania, total mobile data traffic will also show strong growth, increasing by 9 times to reach 12EB per month in 2023.

The regions of the Middle East and Africa and Central and Eastern Europe will experience an 11 times and 8 times increase in mobile data traffic, respectively, up to the end of the forecast period. In 2023, total monthly mobile data traffic will reach 14EB in the Middle East and Africa and 9.3EB in Central and Eastern Europe.

North America and Western Europe have a larger share of the total traffic volume than subscription numbers imply. This is due to well built-out WCDMA and LTE networks and high penetration of high-end user devices, complemented with affordable packages offering large volumes of data. This combination leads to high data usage per subscription. Total mobile data traffic is expected to exceed 18EB per month in North America in 2023 and reach 12EB per month in Western Europe.

In Latin America, the rising number of smartphone subscriptions, as well as the increasing use of mobile broadband to access a range of online services, has led to strong growth in mobile data traffic. This growth is expected to continue over the forecast period to reach close to 9EB per month by the end of 2023.


There will be 11 times more mobile data traffic in India in 2023