Mobile data traffic growth rates
Year-on-year traffic growth rate is decreasing, but net additions are increasing
- Yearly mobile data traffic growth rate is expected to slow down until 2029, but the incrementally added traffic is not declining.
- Total mobile data traffic is forecast to grow 20–30 percent yearly for the next few years, with growth rate slowing to under 20 percent in the latter forecast years.
- XR’s contribution to mobile data traffic growth is yet to be fully quantified – if adoption accelerates, growth could exceed current estimates.
Global mobile data traffic drivers
Mobile data traffic has increased phenomenally in the last 10 years, more than doubling on average every second year. Factors driving data traffic growth in mobile networks include: ever-increasing demand for online digital services, 4G/5G deployments in populous markets, increased network capacity with each new generation of mobile technology, new service introduction, improved quality of experience and affordable service plans for more market segments.
An additional factor driving data traffic growth is subscriber migration. There are still almost 2 billion 2G and 3G subscribers worldwide, with most of them expected to gradually migrate to 4G and 5G over the forecast period. In addition, 5G subscribers consume more data on average than 4G subscribers.
Figure 7: Forecast year-on-year mobile data traffic growth rates by region 2022–2029
Decreasing year-on-year traffic growth rate, but increasing net additions
Mobile data traffic growth between years can be highly volatile and vary significantly between regions, markets and service providers, depending on local market dynamics. It is forecast to grow 20–30 percent per year for most regions in the next few years, with sub-20 percent growth in the later forecast years. Yearly mobile data traffic growth rate is expected to slow down at different paces in different regions up to 2029 (see Figure 7). However, that does not equal less yearly net added data traffic volume; up to 2027, this is expected to increase, whereafter it will be somewhat flat (see Figure 8).
Predicted mobile data traffic growth up to 2029 includes an assumption that initial uptake of XR-type services, including AR, VR and mixed reality (MR), will happen in the latter part of the forecast period, but its specific contribution is yet to be quantified. However, if adoption is accelerated, data traffic could significantly surpass our current traffic outlook at the end of the forecast period. Service providers continue modernizing their networks to cost-effectively manage increasing traffic volumes, while introducing new services and business models to address a broader market beyond enhanced mobile broadband.