Mobile data traffic outlook
Subscriber migration to 4G and 5G from previous-generation mobile technologies is fueling traffic growth
- Globally, average mobile data usage per smartphone is set to rise from 21 GB in 2023 to 56 GB in 2029.
- 5G’s share of mobile data traffic is forecast to grow to 76 percent in 2029.
- Total mobile data traffic is estimated to grow by a factor of around 3 between 2023 and 2029.
Total global mobile data traffic – excluding traffic generated by Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) – is expected to reach 130 EB per month at the end of 2023. This is projected to grow by a factor of around 3 and to reach 403 EB per month in 2029. When FWA is included, total mobile network traffic is anticipated to reach around 160 EB per month at the end of 2023, rising to an expected 563 EB per month by the end of 2029. Predicted traffic growth up to 2029 includes an assumption that an initial uptake of XR-type services, including AR, VR and mixed reality (MR), will happen in the latter part of the forecast period. However, if adoption is stronger than expected, data traffic could increase significantly more than currently anticipated toward the end of the forecast period, particularly in the uplink. At the end of 2023, video traffic is estimated to account for 73 percent of all mobile data traffic.
Populous markets that launch 5G early are likely to lead in terms of traffic growth over the forecast period. 5G’s share of mobile data traffic is estimated to be 25 percent at the end of 2023, an increase from 15 percent at the end of 2022. This share is forecast to grow to 76 percent in 2029.
Figure 9: Global mobile network data traffic
Globally, average monthly mobile data usage per smartphone is expected to reach 56 GB, rising from 21 GB at the end of 2023.
Traffic growth varies across regions
Traffic growth between years can be highly volatile and can vary significantly between countries, depending on local market dynamics. Globally, the growth in mobile data traffic per smartphone can be attributed to three main drivers: improved device capabilities; an increase in data-intensive content; and growth in data consumption, due to continued improvements in the performance of deployed networks.
An example of these differences can be seen in the contrast between the Sub-Saharan Africa region, where average monthly mobile data usage per smartphone is expected to be 6.7 GB at the end of 2023, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, where average monthly usage is expected to be 30 GB per smartphone at the end of 2023. The global monthly average usage per smartphone is anticipated to reach 21 GB in 2023 and is forecast to reach 56 GB by the end of 2029.
The average monthly mobile data usage per smartphone in North America is expected to reach 66 GB in 2029, as unlimited data plans and improved 5G network coverage and capacity increasingly attract new 5G subscribers. Data traffic will increase significantly in line with the expected uptake of gaming, XR and video-based apps. These experiences require higher video resolutions, increased uplink traffic, and more data from devices off-loaded to cloud computing resources to satisfy users. FWA has started to affect overall traffic patterns, accounting for a large share of total network data traffic.
In Western Europe, service usage and traffic growth are expected to follow similar patterns to those anticipated for North America. In 2029, traffic usage per smartphone is projected to reach 64 GB per month – close to the expected usage in North America at that time.
The North East Asia region’s share of total global mobile data traffic is expected to be close to 30 percent in 2029. In the region, 5G subscribers currently use, on average, 2–3 times more data than 4G subscribers. As more 4G subscribers migrate to 5G, average mobile data traffic per smartphone will increase and is expected to reach 64 GB per month in 2029. Video is the dominant traffic type. Additional traffic growth is expected with the introduction of new XR-type services.
Sub-Saharan Africa is poised to remain the region with the highest growth in total mobile data traffic, with a CAGR of 33 percent anticipated between 2023 and 2029. This growth will be driven by the expansion of 4G network coverage across the continent and the increasing affordability of data and smartphones. Smartphone traffic is expected to be the primary contributor to total mobile traffic, with average data usage per smartphone reaching 23 GB by 2029.
Figure 10: Mobile data traffic per smartphone
|India, Nepal, Bhutan
|South East Asia & Oceania
|North East Asia
|Middle East & North Africa1
|Central and Eastern Europe
The Middle East and North Africa region is also expected to experience significant mobile data traffic growth, with a CAGR of 23 percent forecast between 2023 and 2029. This growth will be fueled by the transition of more subscribers to 4G, the increasing uptake of 5G, and attractive variable data service offerings. 4G traffic is expected to be the primary driver of growth. Monthly data usage per smartphone is expected to reach 45 GB by 2029, rising 17 percent annually. Mobile data traffic growth in the GCC countries is expected to be more modest, with a CAGR of 16 percent forecast between 2023 and 2029. However, data usage per smartphone is still projected to reach 66 GB monthly by 2029, primarily driven by 5G data volumes. Service providers are anticipated to capitalize on diverse industry-specific solutions for 5G, which might lead to an increase in overall data usage in the next few years.
In India, Nepal and Bhutan, mobile networks continue to play a pivotal role in driving social and economic inclusion. In India, digital technologies such as e-commerce and e-governance are reshaping the country. 5G is enabling the next phase of growth and transformation in India’s digital landscape, thereby supporting the government’s vision to transform the country into a digitally empowered society and knowledge-based economy.
Average data traffic per smartphone in the region is the highest globally. It is projected to grow from 31 GB per month in 2023 to around 75 GB per month in 2029 – a CAGR of 16 percent. Total mobile data traffic is estimated to grow from 26 EB per month in 2023 to 73 EB per month in 2029, growing at a CAGR of 19 percent. This is driven by high growth in the number of smartphone users and increased average usage per smartphone. Smartphone subscriptions in India as a percentage of total mobile subscriptions are expected to grow from 82 percent in 2023 to 93 percent in 2029. Smartphone subscriptions in India have grown by 70 million in 2023.
Mobile data traffic per smartphone continues to grow strongly in South East Asia and Oceania and is expected to reach around 66 GB per month in 2029 – a CAGR of 19 percent.
In Latin America, individual countries have very different growth rates for data traffic per smartphone. Traffic growth is driven by coverage build-out and continuing strong adoption of 4G (and eventually 5G), linked to a rise in smartphone subscriptions and an increase in average data usage per smartphone. The average amount of data traffic per smartphone is expected to reach 50 GB per month in 2029.
In Central and Eastern Europe, growth is fueled by the migration of 2G and 3G subscribers to 4G, up to 2024, which is when 5G is expected to overtake previous generations as the technology making the greatest contribution to subscriptions. Over the forecast period, monthly average data traffic per smartphone is expected to increase from 19 GB to around 43 GB per month.
It is important to bear in mind that there are significant variations in monthly data consumption within all regions, with some individual countries and service providers having considerably higher monthly consumption than any regional averages.
1. All Middle East and North Africa figures include GCC countries.