According to Cisco's (NASDAQ:CSCO) 11th annual Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast (2016 to 2021), by 2021 the global population will have more mobile phones (5.5 billion) than bank accounts (5.4 billion), running water (5.3 billion), and landlines (2.9 billion). The high growth in phones as well as mobile users, mobile video, network speeds in 4G, and the Internet of Things (IoT) is projected to increase mobile data traffic seven-fold within the next five years.
Among Cisco's projections for 2021:
- Mobile data traffic to represent 20% of total IP traffic - up from 8% of total IP traffic in 2016.
- 1.5 mobile devices per capita. Nearly 12 billion mobile-connected devices (up from 8 billion and 1.1 per capita in 2016), including M2M modules.
- Mobile network connection speeds will increase threefold from 6.8 Mbps in 2016 to 20.4 Mbps by 2021.
- Machine-to-machine (M2M) connections will represent 29% (3.3 billion) of total mobile connections - up from 5% (780 million) in 2016. M2M will be the fastest growing mobile connection type as global IoT applications continue to gain traction in consumer and business environments.
- 4G will support 58% of total mobile connections by 2021 - up from 26% in 2016 and will account for 79% of total mobile data traffic.
- The total number of smartphones (including phablets) will be over 50% of global devices and connections (6.2 billion) - up from 3.6 billion in 2016.
The explosion of mobile applications and adoption of mobile connectivity by end users is fueling the growth of 4G, soon to be followed with 5G growth. Cisco anticipates large-scale deployments of 5G infrastructures to begin in the 2020 timeframe. Cisco projects that 5G will account for 1.5% of total mobile data traffic by 2021 and will generate 4.7 times more traffic than the average 4G connection, and 10.7 times more traffic than the average 3G connection.
Other findings indicate:
- By 2021, global mobile data traffic will reach 49 exabytes (EB) per month or 587 EB annually).
- Mobile video will increase 8.7-fold from 2016 to 2021 and will have the highest growth rate of any mobile application category. Mobile video will represent 78% of all mobile traffic by 2021. Live mobile video will grow 39-fold from 2016 to 2021. Live mobile video will represent 5% of total mobile video traffic by 2021.
- Virtual reality (VR) headsets will grow from 18 million in 2016 to nearly 100 million by 2021 - a five-fold growth. Globally, VR traffic will grow 11-fold from 13.3 petabytes/month in 2016, to 140 petabytes/ month in 2021. Globally, augmented reality (AR) traffic will grow 7-fold between 2016 and 2021, from 3 petabytes/month in 2016 to 21 petabytes /month in 2021.
- In 2016, 60% of total mobile data traffic was offloaded; by 2021, 63% of total mobile data traffic will be offloaded. In 2016, monthly offload traffic (10.7 EB) exceeded monthly mobile/cellular traffic (7.2 EB). Globally, total public WiFi hotspots (including homespots) will grow six-fold from 2016 (94.0 million) to 2021 (541.6 million). WiFi traffic from both mobile devices and WiFi-only devices together will account for 49% of total IP traffic by 2020, up from 42% in 2015.