An increasing number of people in the world are using smartphones, and those of us who possess them are more attached to them than ever before. This isn’t really news: a little crowd-watching will show you that we spend more time staring at tiny screens than at where we’re walking (or driving, in some cases).
We’re not alone; much of the rest of the world is experiencing the same thing, and as a result, worldwide usage of mobile Internet services is literally exploding.
According to a new report by networking giant Cisco (News - Alert), mobile Internet use will continue strong growth over the next five years, at a rate of 66 percent each year as the world gets its hands on more mobile devices, and as more machines are connected to each other and the Web.
Even more telling: for the first time, connected devices will outnumber humans this year, according to Cisco’s annual Visual Networking Index report.
2012 was a tipping point for mobile data: last year, global mobile data traffic grew 70 percent, and last year's mobile data traffic was nearly 12 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000. Speed increased greatly as well: mobile network connection speeds more than doubled in 2012, thanks in part to newer technologies such as 4G (fourth-generation) connections.
Cisco’s research revealed that 4G generated 19 times more traffic on average than a non-4G connection last year.
So what are we watching so much of on our small smartphone and tablet screens? Mobile video, mostly. The report found that by the end of 2012, mobile video traffic represented 51 percent of total traffic.
Growth, as one would expect, varied greatly according to region. Western Europe actually saw a slowdown in mobile data traffic, with growth of 44 percent in 2012 – substantially lower than the global average.
Mobile data traffic in Asia Pacific, however, grew at 95 percent in 2012 – a near-doubling of traffic.
The mobile data market is far from finished when it comes to growth and acceleration, said the report’s authors. By 2017, there will be 8.6 billion handheld or personal mobile-ready devices and 1.7 billion machine-to-machine connections (such as GPS systems in cars, asset tracking systems in shipping and manufacturing sectors, or medical applications making patient records and health status more readily available.)
Regionally, North America and Western Europe will see the fastest growth in mobile devices and connections with 13 percent and 10 percent CAGR from 2012 to 2017, respectively.
Fast-forward to 2017, and the report estimates that there will be an estimated 5.2 billion people on earth using mobile phones – up from 4.3 billion in 2012. There will also be about 1.7 billion connected machines — anything from your home systems to your car — in five years.
For more detailed information, view the full report here.