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Mobile traffic analysis by application

Increased viewing of video on mobile devices, embedded video and emerging video formats will drive data consumption.


Key findings

  • Mobile video traffic is forecast to grow by around 50% annually through 2023
  • The strong growth in mobile video traffic is driven by increased viewing of video on mobile devices, embedded video and emerging video formats
  • Social networking will increase by 34% annually over the next 6 years

Mobile video traffic is forecast to grow by around 50 percent annually through 2023 to account for 75 percent of all mobile data traffic. Social networking is also expected to grow – increasing by 34 percent annually over the next 6 years. However, its relative share of traffic will decline from 12 percent in 2017 to around 8 percent in 2023, as a result of the stronger growth of video.

Other application categories have annual growth rates ranging from 20 to 32 percent, and so are shrinking as a proportion of overall traffic. The use of embedded video in social media and webpages (here counted as video traffic) is also growing, fueled by larger device screens, higher resolution and new platforms supporting live streaming.

The emergence of new applications and changes in consumer behavior can shift the forecast relative traffic volumes. Streaming videos in different resolutions can impact data traffic consumption to a high degree. Watching HD video (1080p) rather than video at a standard resolution (480p) typically increases the data traffic volume by around 4 times. An emerging trend with increased streaming of immersive video formats, such as 360-degree video, would also impact data traffic consumption. For example, a YouTube 360-degree video consumes 4 to 5 times as much bandwidth as a normal YouTube video at the same resolution.

Another driver is an increasing preference among consumers for on-demand and catch-up TV over scheduled linear TV viewing. Consumer research indicates that as early as 2020, half of all TV and video viewing will be done on a mobile screen.1

Mobile traffic by application category CAGR 2017–2023 (percent)
Mobile data traffic by application category per month (ExaBytes)

1 Ericsson ConsumerLab, TV and Media (2017) 

Base: Population aged 16–69 watching TV/video at least weekly and having broadband at home in Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, the UK and the US