Any casual observer can see from the way people look at their phones in public – all day, every day – that mobile data traffic must be increasing at a significant rate. And sure, all that time spent in apps, scrolling through feeds, searching on the web, etc. is counting toward that, however, if you had to pinpoint a primary driver of this massive increase in data usage, it would have to be mobile video.
Mobile video traffic now accounts for two-thirds (63%) of all mobile data traffic, and will grow to account for nearly four-fifths (79%) of all mobile data traffic by 2022 – representing a 9X increase since 2017, Cisco reports in its latest whitepaper.
The company made several other forecasts regarding mobile use over the next 4-5 years. By 2022, they project that:
- Mobile will represent 20% of total IP traffic.
- The number of mobile-connected devices per capita will reach 1.5.
- The average global smartphone connection speed will surpass 40 Mbps.
- Smartphones will surpass 90% of mobile data traffic
- 4G traffic will be 71%, and 5G traffic will be 12% of the total mobile traffic
What is Spurring This Growth?
The global rise of mobile video, particularly on smartphones, is being driven by growing investment in social video and increasingly mobile-friendly Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) platforms, the company’s analysts said.
Mobile is the primary site of consumption for social platforms: Of the 45 minutes that people spend social networking, 34 minutes came from smartphones, according to Nielsen. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat already feature copious amounts of video, and each of these major players is openly investing in new video formats, including long-form and Stories. (Video is now an enormous factor for revenue for these businesses, so they will continue to be motivated to invest in it.)
Video streaming services are also a big bolster to the mobile video growth spurt. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, etc. are recognizing that many people use their smartphone as a primary device to stream video; this is especially true in Asian and East Asian countries. For companies like Netflix, where 35% of global sign-ups are for mobile devices, there is a strong reason to innovate and improve the mobile user experience, which will perpetuate the growth in mobile video data use.
International Markets Are Catching Up, And Quickly
As noted above, Asian markets continue to grow in leaps and bounds, with many consumers using their mobile device as a primary screen for not just information, but entertainment. Mobile data traffic in the Asia Pacific region is projected to grow 49% by 2022, and Latin America will grow 43%. The Middle East and Africa will have the most robust mobile data traffic growth of any region, however, with a 56% CAGR.
What About Power Users? The Pareto Principle, Applied
Those who have experience in the mobile gaming space know all too well the impact of power users, the small group of mobile gamers who account for a grossly disproportionate amount of time (and money) spent in-app. This falls in line with the well-known Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule), in which roughly 80% of the effects, or results, stem from 20% of the causes. Looking at mobile data traffic increases, it would be easy to assume that much of the influx of data use is coming from a small number of users – the ones who are binge-watching Netflix on their phones, for example.
However, the report found that the “power user” principle is lessening over time. In 2010, the top 1% of mobile data subscribers generated 52% of the traffic, and today, that group only generates 6% of total mobile data traffic. (The principle still somewhat applies: the top 20% of mobile users accounted for 62% of mobile data traffic.) So, while there is still a significant imbalance when it comes to mobile use, it’s important to note that this trend is changing, too.
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