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Shape Shifting Meets Accessorizing – the Latest Mobile Devices & Connections Trends

To say that global device and connections are growing is a true understatement. And this growth is rapidly shifting.

By 2020, there will be 8.5 billion handheld or personal mobile-ready devices and 3.1 billion machine-to-machine (M2M) connections supported by mobile networks. From smartphones and tablets to PCs and “phablets”, mobile digitization and wearables adoption is creating new demands on wireless infrastructures.

On the heels of last week’s 10th annual VNI Mobile Forecast update, take a visual journey into the major role digitization, personal devices and M2M connections have on mobile data traffic growth.

Mobile VNI Blog 1-01_updated

The Shift from PCs to Smartphones

Each year, new devices in different form factors and with increased capabilities and intelligence are introduced to the global market. For the 2015 VNI Mobile Forecast, phablets were added as a new subcategory within the smartphone segment, which is projected to grow from 38% of all mobile connections in 2015 to 48% of all mobile connections by 2020. Within the same time frame, the overall share of nonsmartphone devices–like PCs–will decline from 50% of all mobile connections in 2015 to 21% by 2020.

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Major Mobile Milestones – The Last 15 Years, and the Next Five

Cowritten with Usha Andra, Senior Analyst, Visual Networking Index, Service Provider Marketing

2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the VNI Mobile Forecast. For a decade, we have analyzed, reviewed, and made projections about mobile networking and how consumers and business users’ behaviors and expectations have changed based on device innovations, network enhancements, and a seemingly never-ending variety of mobile applications and content options. Our work and focus on forecasting the growth of global mobile network traffic and wireless service trends has given us an opportunity to cover one of the fastest growing (in terms of user adoption) and constantly interesting global industries ever developed. Over the past 10 years, mobile data traffic has increased 6,000-fold, and over the past 15 years, it has increased an incredible 600-million-fold. The average smartphone owner today is carrying a computing device more powerful than 10 PCs from 2000. And mobile devices have evolved from devices for calling and texting to devices for calling, texting, tweeting, posting, watching, gaming, banking, navigating, shopping, and reading.

Here’s a very brief summary of some of the major mobile milestones that many of us have experienced over the last 15 years, in five-year increments. What did we miss or would you add to these timelines? We’ve also provided a quick snapshot of our projections for the next five years. Let us know what you think…

Pre-2000: The wireless wilderness shows early signs of development

In 1973, the first mobile phone call was placed with the words “guess where I’m calling from?”, the motto of the early days of cellular voice. Mobile phones became commercially available in 1979, but the early phones were expensive and heavy, with large nickel cadmium batteries weighing them down. In the 1990s, lithium ion batteries were introduced, reducing the weight and size of the phones by more than half, and the phones began to be offered at more affordable prices. Also in the early 1990s, 2G phones deploying GSM technology were introduced, marking the shift from analog to digital communications. With GSM, limited data services such as text messaging and paging began to be available. The GPRS standard was introduced in the late 1990s, delivering packet-switched data capabilities to existing GSM networks and allowing users to send graphics-rich data as packets.

2000 – 2005: “Call me”

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Mobile voice was still the dominant voice application in this era, but Read More »

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The History and Future of Internet Traffic

Man working in home office

I remember when 1 Mbps was big bandwidth. And 45 Mbps was unbelievably, outlandishly huge bandwidth. One spring day in 1995, at the headquarters of a large technology company outside of Dallas, there was excited chatter at the proverbial water cooler about the T3 access line that was being installed. A T3 line! Nearly 45 Mbps! Every thing really is bigger in Texas! We wondered what we would do with all that bandwidth, even though there were thousands of us at the location being served. Now, in 2015, the average broadband home has a 25 Mbps connection, and 20% of broadband homes worldwide have T3 speeds or higher, serving just the members of that household. And we now talk about yesterday’s data speeds Read More »

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Three Mobile Trends to Watch

Updated 2015 VNI Mobile Forecast Reveals Potential “Wildcards” for Mobile Devices, Networks and Services

This week, Cisco released its annual Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Forecast, 2014 – 2019. Among the traditional top-line growth projections that indicate a healthy mobile industry (e.g., more than 5.2 billion global mobile users by 2019 and 10-fold mobile traffic growth over the next five years), there were several interesting trends that could have significant implications for mobile networking in the near future.

Mobile Devices: Laptops make a comeback and phablets start to emerge

While there is an overall growth in the number of mobile devices and connections, there is also a visible shift in the device mix. This year forecast shows a slight slowdown in the growth of tablets as a new device sub-category, phablets (included in our smartphone category), were began to show global adoption. Tablet growth was also affected by the introduction of lightweight laptops, which are quite similar to tablets in form factor but have more enhanced capabilities. Today, tablets are primarily being used as content consumption devices – ideally suited for video viewing in particular. Laptops are still serving as the dominant content creation device, particularly for business users (e.g., presentation, spreadsheet, and document development). While the absolute numbers or volume for smartphones (4.6 billion by 2019), tablets (nearly 300 million by 2019) and laptops (nearly 250 million by 2019) are growing, they are all losing their percentage share of total mobile devices and connections to the fastest growing mobile connection type – M2M (3.2 billion by 2019).

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Mobile Networks: Low Power, Wide-Area (LPWA) networks may be optimal for campus-wide IoE applications

This year’s forecast includes M2M nodes connected via Low-Power, Wide-Area (LPWA) networks. These networks are Read More »

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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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