Mobile data traffic expected to rise 400% by 2021, new report says

Data usage from mobile devices is set to quadruple in size between 2017 and 2021 thanks to the rising popularity of 4K content, according to a new report by Juniper Research, a UK-based research and consulting firm.

The study, titled “Mobile Data Offload & Onload: Wi-Fi, Small Cell & Network Strategies 2016-2021”, found that data traffic generated by smartphones, tablets, and feature phones will reach 774,000 petabytes (PB) between 2017 and 2012, equivalent to 81 billion hours of 4K streaming.

It also reported that as 4K content becomes both more widely available and accepted by consumers, the increased data usage will contribute to an almost threefold rise in cellular traffic, which will exceed 318,000 PB by 2021. By 2018 alone, cellular data traffic will reach 129,000 PB, or approximately 14 billion hours of 4K video streaming, which will put a large amount of pressure on cellular networks.

Global averages for data usage from both smartphones and tablets will also rise significantly, Juniper reports, with cellular data usage reaching 5GB a month by 2021 (up from 2GB in 2017) and tablet data usage exceeding 3.3GB per month in 2021, up from 1.5GB in 2017.

An interesting note from the study shows that the automotive sector is driving traffic generated by cellular connected machine-to-machine (M2M) systems, which will approach 6,000PB by 2021.

These findings are supported by previous studies, including one from network gear company Cisco, which reported last year that expanded smartphone use and M2M systems would drive mobile data traffic 10-fold.


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Mandy Kovacs
Mandy Kovacs
Mandy is a lineup editor at CTV News. A former staffer at IT World Canada, she's now contributing as a part-time podcast host on Hashtag Trending. She is a Carleton University journalism graduate with extensive experience in the B2B market. When not writing about tech, you can find her active on Twitter following political news and sports, and preparing for her future as a cat lady.

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