Mobile networks will be virtually ubiquitous by 2020, thanks to the rising use of smartphones. Just to show how much data usage has surged; ‘an average smartphone in North America consumes 2.4 gigabytes each month’. This is equivalent to about 10 hours of streaming video. But by 2020, mobile data usage will rise to 14 GB a month, which will be nearly six-fold, according to Ericsson Mobility Report.
This ever-growing consumption of mobile data is profoundly contributed by the sheer amount of time people spend on their smartphones, and IoT applications like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and much more.
What Lies Ahead for Data?
Exponential Growth in Mobile Data Traffic by Region:
The immense growth in mobile technology and data usage, driven by a surge in mobile connectivity and smartphone uptake, is seen all over North America, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. However, Asia Pacific will have the most significant share of mobile data traffic, and in 2022 the total mobile traffic in the region is expected to exceed 30 exabytes (see figure 1)
In the coming years, smartphones will make up 80 per cent of all global mobile data, as 6.1 billion subscriptions as expected by 2020. This explosion will, in turn, see immense multiplication in mobile data usage worldwide.
Growth in Mobile Data Consumption by Region:
North America will lead the chart with 26 GB of estimated data consumption per consumer per month, followed by Western Europe at 22 GB, as per the Ericsson Mobility Report. The Asia Pacific region will depict close to 10 GB of data consumed per subscriber per month (See Figure 2).
Factors that will drive usage consist of an increase in the number of LTE subscriptions, better device capabilities, attractive data plans, and an increase in data-intensive content.
Rising Data Consumption by Device and Applications
Going forwards, traffic generated by smartphones will profoundly dominate other devices. Between the 2016 and 2022, the smartphone traffic is expected to increase by nine times, so by the end of the forecast period, more than 90 percent of mobile data traffic will be attributed to smartphones (See Figure 3).
According to Business Standard, 90 per cent of the global population will have smartphones by 2020, and this implies that earlier ways of computing on a desktop or laptop, are going to be replaced by mobile computing.
Mobile video data will be the fastest-growing segment of mobile data traffic as it will increase 870 per cent from 2016 to 2021, reaching 38 exabytes per month, and encouraged by the broad adoption of live video, AR, and VR. It will also account for 78 per cent of total mobile data traffic.
Cisco projects that the top 10 per cent of users will account for 55 per cent of all the traffic; whereas the top 20 per cent of users will account for a whopping 70 per cent of the data traffic.
Implications for Telecom Operators
Smartphone subscriptions will reach 6.1 billion in 2020, and almost 80 per cent of these new subscriptions will come from Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.
As more people subscribe, network operators must adopt 4G and 5G to be more efficient in the use of the limited radio spectrum. As businesses move to digitalisation and adopt IoT solutions, there will be an increased need for faster and more reliable network connections. Thus, network operators will need to improve services to tap this potential growth.
IoT and digitalisation of business are where most revenue potential will stay. Hence networks must evolve to be able to provide reliable, high-speed internet over a more extensive coverage, and mobile operators must diversify their offerings to a value-derived model. Network controls will be essential to increase the required sophistication and create new opportunities around mobile data services.
With the integration of the IoT into our lives, there will be 21 billion connected devices by 2020, according to Gartner. To sustain these numbers, telecom operators will face the pressure to make available platforms supporting this incredibly high levels of connectivity.
The deployment of 5G will facilitate the development of IoT, such that 5G will not just be an upgrade, but a complete revolution of mobile data solutions. Many sectors and companies are investing in 5G to support their smartphones. The involvement of other industries puts telecom companies under pressure, and hence telecom companies will need to invest heavily in producing a network with the promised capabilities of 5G.
Business Opportunities for Telecom Operators
Operators need to leverage data/video traffic optimisation. Operators need to move their offering from a single quality-of-service (QoS) experience to all users, to differentiated services. Such services will allow customers to enjoy a better quality of service. As data consumption grows, more customers will be interested in improved network performance and an enhanced user experience. Operators can differentiate according to subscriber behaviour and usage pattern based on need, time of day, location, and the requirements of a specific application type.
Operators will need to invest in building scalable and cost-efficient infrastructure that enables subscriber and application-centric QoS provisioning.
Data optimisation will reduce network load by 5-25 percent and operating costs by up to 50 percent (Ericsson). Up-sell opportunities will bring incremental revenues through value-added services such as:
- Personalized experience based on user profiling
- Advertisement insertion
- Secure browsing
- Parental control
Advertising and providing user data to third parties for mobile data solutions can help in monetisation of revenue.
The proliferation of smartphone, expansion of network infrastructure, and broad adoption of mobile video will continue to drive up mobile data consumption. Both VR and AR will be poised to be the next set of the most prominent trends in mobile data solutions.
The current 4G LTE networks are used to fulfil the demands of numerous existing and new use cases, but, as networks evolve and 5G is implemented, there will be even more opportunities to enhance the current and new use cases.
The explosion of mobile applications and impressive adoption of mobile connectivity will help in optimized bandwidth management and network monetisation for the operators through mobile data solutions.
With data management solutions, operators can efficiently manage the significant rise in network traffic, and mobile data, ultimately enhancing end-to-end customer management.