Worldwide mobile data traffic is due to increase 26-fold to 75 exabytes annually, says networking giant Cisco in its latest report, the Cisco Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast for 2010 to 2015. To put that in perspective, that's the equivalent of 19 billion DVDs, 536 quadrillion SMS text messages or 75 times the amount of global Internet IP data (fixed and mobile data) in the year 2000.

It's also a major increase from Cisco's report last year, which forecasted an increase to 40 exabytes by 2014.

If you don't know what an exabyte is, it's 1 billion gigabytes. A gigabyte is a term you're probably familiar with as most personal computer hard drives are measured in gigabytes (abbreviated "GB"). For example, a low-end MacBook Pro has a 250 GB hard drive.

Compared with Last Year

In last year's annual snapshot of mobile data traffic, Cisco had predicted traffic would jump from 0.09 exabytes per month in 2009 to 0.2 exabytes per month in 2010, and by 2014, it would reach 3.6 exabytes per month.

Those figures (at least for 2010), were right on the mark - even a little lower than what the actual data collected ended up showing. According to this latest report, the monthly data traffic in 2010 was 237 petabytes per month, while Cisco had predicted 204.8 petabytes previously (0.2 exabytes = 204.8 petabytes).

By 2015: 6.3 Exabytes per Month

Now Cisco is extending its earlier forecast to 2015, the year when mobile data traffic will reach 6.3 exabytes per month,  a compound annual growth rate of 92%.

By 2015, there will be more than 5.6 billion personal devices, like smartphones and tablets, connected to mobile networks as well as 1.5 billion machine-to-machine nodes - a stat that's equivalent to nearly one mobile connection for every person on earth, says Cisco.

Today's average mobile connection generates 65 megabytes of traffic per month, which is about 15 MP3 music files. By 2015, that will increase 17 times to 1,118 megabytes per month, or 260 MP3's.

Growth Trends: Mobile Video, Tablets

The continuing mobile data surge comes from, in large part, mobile video traffic. This traffic is expected to represent 66% of all mobile data traffic by 2015.


Also expected to grow dramatically is tablet device use, which will increase 205-fold from 2010 to 2015, the highest growth rate for any device category. Combined with smartphones, laptops and other portable tablet devices, this group of personal devices will account for 87% of the global mobile traffic by 2015.

Tablets in particular will generate 248 petabytes per month by 2015 - that's more than the entire global mobile network did in 2010 (237 petabytes per month)! The same will also be true for machine-to-machine connections - 295 petabytes in 2015.

Contributing to the increased consumption, too, is the increasing global mobile network connection speeds. The average connection speed doubled from 2009 to 2010 and will increase 10-fold by 2015.

By Region

Mobile data traffic is now outpacing fixed broadband traffic, says Cisco. Last year, it grew 4.2 times as fast. The regions with the highest growth rates are the Middle East and Africa, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 129%.

Latin America will have a 111% CAGR, Central and Eastern Europe will have a 102% CAGR, Asia-Pacific a 101% CAGR, Western Europe a 91% CAGR, North America an 83% CAGR and Japan a 70% CAGR.

For a more detailed look into these findings, you can download the full report from Cisco.com here.