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VNI Shift Driven by Smartphone Adoption and Offloading to Wi-Fi

For the fifth year, Cisco has released its updated Mobile Visual Networking Index Forecast.  This year, we’ve seen dramatic changes in consumer behavior as well as continued explosive growth in mobile data.

Global mobile traffic grew 70% in 2012 and traffic is forecast to rise 13 times between 2012 and 2017, a CAGR of 66%.  And in 2012, for the first time, video exceeded 50% of global mobile data.

The key take away from this year’s report, however, is the dramatic shift of mobile traffic offloaded to small cells, primarily Wi-Fi. The chart below (Figure 8 from the mobile VNI report) illustrates how mobile offload increases from 33 percent of total mobile traffic (cellular plus small cell/ Wi-Fi) in 2012, to 46 percent in 2017. This is significantly larger than we forecasted just a year ago when we estimated mobile offload would comprise 11% of total traffic in 2011, growing to 22% in 2016.

Fig8 - Mobile VNI 2013

Offloading is even more pronounced in the US where it will account for 66% of total mobile traffic in 2017.

While the underlying aggregate global mobile data traffic, cellular plus Wi-Fi, has been revised slightly from last year (2012 total traffic revised to 1.3 exabytes from 1.5 exabytes/month; 2016 traffic revised to 13.8 exabytes from 13.9 exabytes), the shift from cellular to Wi-Fi is occurring faster than we had anticipated. The table below compares the 2012 and 2013 forecasts.

VNI Forecast Comparison 7

So what’s happening in the mobile landscape that is driving these changes?

First, the mobile VNI report highlights an acceleration of smartphone uptake, and even faster adoption relative to the use of mobile connected laptops. While mobile connected laptops, mostly using dongles, helped drive early consumption of mobile data traffic, consumers are adopting smart phones and tablets faster than earlier forecasted. The shift from mobile connected laptops to smart phones and tablets lowers data consumption as the latter use less data per application (because of smaller screens size and lower processing speeds). Forecasting to 2017, smart phones and tablets are expected to overwhelm laptops and account for about 80% of connected devices in 2017 vs. only 14% for laptops (see graph below).

Fig3 - Mobile VNI 2013

The second trend is a dramatic uptake of offloading data traffic to small cells, primarily Wi-Fi. Offload is being driven by service providers (both mobile as well as fixed, such as cable) deploying and using Wi-Fi hot spots, as well as a by consumers using WiFi for bandwidth hungry applications such as high-resolution video.  Operators are offloading data connections to cope with limited and increasingly congested spectrum for macro cell networks while, at the same time, consumers are using WiFi offload for better indoor performance and to avoid exceeding their mobile data plans.

Working together, these two trends are driving dramatic change in the composition of total wireless data traffic (cellular plus Wi-Fi).

The full Mobile VNI 2013 report highlights this shift as well as other key trends driving growth in mobile IP traffic.

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Cisco’s Mobile VNI Forecast: What Does it All Mean?

Earlier this week, Cisco announced its latest Cisco Visual Networking Index Mobile Forecast, 2011-2016, from the Royal Opera House in London.

The report showed that global mobile Internet traffic is expected to grow 18-fold over the forecast period, reaching 130 exabytes annually by 2016 – the equivalent of 33 billion DVDs going across mobile networks every year.

But what does this significant growth of mobile traffic mean for mobile operators?  How will the changing mix of mobile devices and connections (such as smartphones, tablets and M2M) impact their networks, their businesses, and strategic partnerships?  We asked some of the industry’s most experienced and knowledgeable independent analysts and consultants to give us their perspectives.

To see the complete report, including global, regional and some country-level forecast projections, go to www.cisco.com/go/vni, and watch a VoD of the February 14, 2012 VNI Mobile event here.

Thanks as always for reading.

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Hazard: Mobile Traffic Jam Ahead

Over a billion mobile devices are online today. Just last quarter, Apple sold 52.4 million iPhones and iPads. The airwaves are humming, and there’s already traffic congestion along the mobile services highway.

The Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) report released on February 14, 2012 predicts that the volume of mobile data traffic will grow 18 times over by 2016. That totals 10.8 exabytes per month by 2016, nearly 11 quintillion (1018) bytes: a staggering number, five times the volume of the entire global Internet in 2005.

Will your mobile infrastructures be ready for all that traffic?

Read More »

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Full Speed Ahead Traffic to Increase 18X by 2016

Today in a global webcast from the Royal Opera House in London, we announced our annual Cisco Visual Networking Index Mobile Forecast, 2011-2016, to a global audience.  While some people may have been anticipating a decrease in mobile traffic considering the importance service providers are placing on mobile traffic offload and the tiered pricing plans being put in place for subscriber, just the opposite occurred.  Even in the face of those downward pressures along with the continuing economic uncertainties, the total amount of traffic in the forecast period is expected to soar 18-fold from 2011 to 2016, reaching 130 exabytes annually.  To put that amount into perspective, an exabyte is 10 to the 18th power of bytes which is a large number in its own right;  130 exabytes is the data equivalent of having 33 billion DVDs streamed in the airwaves around us each year. Read More »

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