Surging mobile data ‘will challenge operators’

11 March 2011 |


Equipment vendor Cisco has forecast that global mobile data traffic volumes will have grown 26-fold by 2015 compared with 2010 levels, fuelling concerns about the ability of mobile operators to cope.

The company’s Visual Networking Index identified video over mobile devices as the biggest contributor to the surge, along with increased smartphone and tablet use. Mobile video will account for twothirds of all mobile data traffic by 2015, said Cisco, a rise of 35 times over the five years. Cisco predicted that there will be more than 5.6 billion personal devices of various types in use globally by 2015, as well as 1.5 billion M2M devices.

The Middle East and Africa will experience the steepest growth in mobile data traffic levels over the period, it said, followed by Latin America, central and eastern Europe and Asia-Pacific. By country, India’s mobile data traffic is expected to grow the fastest over the  five-year term, at a rate of 158% per year, followed by South Africa and Mexico. By 2015, sub-Saharan Africa, south east Asia and the Middle East may well have more people with access to a mobile phone network than enjoy electricity services in the home, predicted the vendor.

“Consumers and business users continue to demonstrate a healthy demand for mobile data services,” said Suraj Shetty, VP of worldwide service provider marketing with Cisco. “The fact that global mobile data traffic increased 2.6-fold from 2009 to 2010, nearly tripling for the third year in a row, confirms the strength of the mobile internet. The seemingly endless bevy of new mobile devices, combined with greater mobile broadband access, more content and applications of all types, especially video, are the key catalysts driving this remarkable growth.”

Without sufficient capacity and resiliency in the backhaul portion of their networks, mobile operators could soon face problems delivering on the promise of mobile connectivity, warns Mervyn Kelly, EMEA marketing director with vendor Ciena. “This increase in data usage is not being matched on the revenue side,” he commented. “The hunger for highbandwidth applications is making carriers rethink their network strategy and look for more efficient ways to support data growth. An important part of this is the backhaul network. It can be seen as the foundation for any successful mobile network strategy – if you get it wrong, it doesn’t matter how pretty your house is, it’s going to fall down.”