Mobile data traffic growth outlook
In 2024, 5G networks will carry 25 percent of global mobile data traffic.
- In 2024, 5G networks will carry a quarter of all global mobile data traffic.
- Total mobile traffic is expected to increase by a factor of 5 over the next 6 years, reaching 136EB/month by the end of 2024.
- North America has the highest monthly usage per smartphone, reaching 8.6GB at the end of this year.
- In North East Asia, traffic per smartphone has grown strongly over 2018 – and is set to increase by around 140 percent during the full year to 7.3GB/month.
- In 2024, traffic generated by smartphones is projected to be 95 percent of total mobile data traffic.
Monthly mobile data traffic per smartphone continues to increase in all regions, driven by improved device capabilities and more affordable data plans, as well as an increase in data-intensive content.
North America has the highest monthly usage, reaching 8.6 gigabytes (GB) at the end of this year, and is set to reach 50GB by the end of 2024. In North East Asia, traffic per smartphone has grown strongly during 2018 – increasing by around 140 percent year-on-year. The region now has the second-highest monthly usage at 7.3GB and is projected to reach 21GB at the end of the forecast period. Attractive data plans as well as innovative mobile apps and content are driving growth in China.
Total mobile data traffic is expected to be five times higher
Close to 90 percent of total mobile data traffic is generated by smartphones today – a figure which is projected to reach 95 percent at the end of 2024. As monthly usage per smartphone continues to increase, total mobile data traffic is predicted to rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31 percent over the forecast period, reaching 136 exabytes (EB) per month by the end of 2024. It is expected that 25 percent of mobile data traffic worldwide will be carried by 5G networks at that time. This is 1.3 times more than the total traffic today.
Currently, the 5G traffic forecast does not include traffic generated by fixed wireless access (FWA) services. However, as FWA is one of the early use cases planned for 5G in some regions, it could have a significant impact on the forecast figures, depending on market uptake of the service.
North East Asia’s monthly mobile data traffic is set to reach 39EB in 2024
North East Asia is the world’s most populous region and, as such, has the largest share of global mobile data traffic – close to 30 percent at the end of 2018. In 2024, total mobile data traffic in the region is forecast to reach 39EB per month. The rapid growth in mobile broadband subscriptions is expected to continue. China is set to add around 170 million mobile broadband subscriptions by the end of 2024, which – together with the increased usage per smartphone – will drive total data traffic up to 29EB per month in the country.
In the Middle East and Africa, total mobile data traffic is expected to grow by nine times during the forecast period – representing the highest growth rate globally. Smartphone subscriptions are projected to double, increasing penetration from 45 percent to 70 percent. In 2024, total monthly mobile data traffic is projected to reach 17EB in the region.
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 LTE networks and high penetration of high-end user devices, complemented with affordable packages offering large volumes of data. With increased consumption of broadband-intensive services, such as video, and new applications like virtual reality and augmented reality, in 2024 total mobile data traffic is expected to exceed 19EB per month in North America and 14EB per month in Western Europe.