Mobile Data Use Will Increase Ten-fold by 2021

smartphone data is going to increase ten-fold
  • According to the latest global report published by telecommunications giant Ericsson, mobile data usage is set to grow ten-fold within only six years time.
  • Another significant finding of the report is that mobile data grew by a massive 65% between Q3 2014 and Q3 2015.

  • While there are currently around 3.4 billion mobile subscriptions at present, Ericsson predicts that this will double to around 6.4 billion by 2021. 

What's driving demand for mobile data?

via Ericsson Mobility Report Nov 2015

One of the primary drivers of the demand for data is the increasing use of content streaming services such as Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify. YouTube alone accounts for 50% to 70% of total video traffic on most mobile networks. 

These content providers will benefit the most from this trend for increasing data usage, with greater opportunities for advertising on their platforms and sales of subscriptions to users.

This trend for content consumption on mobile devices is coupled with an increased proliferation of smartphone devices, both leading to significant shifts in overall mobile usage.

“The growth in data traffic is being driven both by increased smartphone subscriptions and a continued increase in average data volume per subscription, fueled primarily by more viewing of video content.”
- Ericsson, Nov 2015

What does this mean for mobile operators?

As we’ve previously examined on our blog, mobile plans will become increasingly data-focused as increased smartphone adoption helps drive the demand for internet content.

Ericsson note in their report that smartphone sales accounted for about 75% of all phones sold in Q3 2015. Furthermore, they predict that by 2016, the number of smartphone subscriptions worldwide will exceed those of feature phones.

75% of phones sold worldwide in Q3 2015 were smartphones

What we may see is that mobile providers will compete more fiercely on the price of data, which would hopefully lead to cheaper plans for consumers. Mobile providers will most likely offer competitive data plan bundles, rather than competing on voice minutes or SMS prices. 

"Operators can stay competitive by launching attractive data and communication services bundles." 
- Ericsson, Nov 2015

Voice traffic will gradually decrease in the coming years, while messaging will decrease more rapidly, as 'over the top' alternatives provide better user-experiences. However, demand for traditional voice calls and SMS messaging will remain relatively strong.  

According to the research from Ericsson, it's likely that mobile networks will increasingly offer unlimited voice and messaging services, bundled with data plans.

"The relative share of voice and messaging revenue reported by operators is declining, driven by growing data usage, but demand for communication services is still strong. Many operators offer combined voice and data plans, often with unlimited voice and messaging."
- Ericsson, Nov 2015

Read more from our blog: