4G devices represent a tiny percentage of the world's wireless connections, but they already punch way above weight in terms of mobile traffic shifted, according to the latest global mobile data traffic forecast from Cisco Systems Inc.
Cisco put out its annual visual networking index (VNI) global mobile data traffic forecast on Tuesday. The company predicts that worldwide mobile data traffic will increase 13-fold between 2012 and 2017, and reach 11.2 exabytes per month by 2017.
The continued growth in mobile traffic will continue to be driven by the increase in mobile devices and wireless machine-to-machine connections through 2017. Cisco expects that the number of mobile connections up and running will exceed the expected 7.6 billion population of the earth by 2017.
Average data speeds will also increase as 3G connections overtake 2G connections round the world and 4G starts to make its mark. Cisco is predicting that average mobile network speeds will increase seven-fold -- from 0.5Mbit/s in 2012 to 3.9Mbit/s in 2017.
Faster data speeds will also facilitate even more people sending funny cat videos using their mobile phones. Video already represents over 50 percent of mobile data traffic, and will grow to 66 percent of all mobile traffic within the five year period.
Light Reading Mobile is unable to quantify how much of that growth will be driven by videos of Maru jumping in and out of boxes.
Despite all the talk of 4G networks from carriers in the U.S. and Asia, the faster data technology represents just 1 percent of the mobile connections on the planet right now. In 2012, 2G still dominated globally, with 3G at 23 percent of connections.
By 2017, 3G will represent 57 percent of global mobile connections, while 4G will be at 10 percent, Cisco says. "3G took at about seven years to reach 10 percent adoption, so 4G is on roughly the same track," comments Thomas Barnett, senior manager of product & solutions marketing for Cisco.
But just how much data today's 4G users gobble through now is striking. "That 1 percent is generating 14 percent of the traffic, so speed does matter," says Barnett. When 4G reaches its anticipated 10 percent adoption rate in 2017, the technology will drive 45 percent of mobile traffic, Cisco predicts
â€” Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile