Cisco: 40% of Mobile Users Will Be on 4G When 5G Hits

By 2020 -- about the time 5G networks are expected to launch commercially -- 4G will make up more than 70% of all mobile traffic, generating six times more traffic per month than non-4G connections, but only accounting for 40.5% of all mobile connections.

These are just a few of the tidbits from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s latest Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, the industry projection it uses to help promote its technology and remind the world how mobile data-hungry we've become. And the VNI reports are important reminders that 4G still has a long shelf life even as all attention turns toward 5G. (See Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, 2015 - 2020.)

As of last year, Cisco says 4G connections only made up 13.7% of all mobile connections, a number that's set to grow to 40.5% over the next four years. While 4G will eclipse 3G for the first time, 3G connections will still account for 38.7% of all mobile connections and 2G will make up 13.5%, fallen from 52.3% in 2015. There will be a big user base with the potential to transition to 5G, but also a lot that may not see the need. (See MWC: Buckle Up for 5G & the IIoT, TeliaSonera, Ericsson Join 5G Early Movers and You Can't Spell 5G Without LTE.)

For more on the what's driving mobile data traffic growth, check out the dedicated mobile services/apps section here on Light Reading.

Despite the fact that the majority of users still won't be on 4G by 2020, Cisco is using the latest VNI as more impetus behind 5G, which it says will become increasingly necessary to address new scale requirements, security concerns and user demands. (See Why 5G Matters – Now!)

That's because overall speeds and data usage continues to soar. Cisco says there will be 5.5 billion mobile users, representing 70% of the global population, by 2020. That means more people will have mobile phones than electricity, running water and cars in four year's time, and they are using their phones for video more than anything else.

Annual global mobile data traffic will reach 366.8 exabytes by 2020, up from 44.2 exabytes in 2015, Cisco says. That's the equivalent of 7 trillion video clips, more than 2.5 daily video clips per person on earth for a year. And, the vendor claims, global 4G adoption is driving speed improvements to increase 3.2 fold from 2015, from 2 Mbps in 2015 to 6.5 Mbps in 2020.

Interestingly, WiFi offload also continues to grow with more traffic being offloaded to WiFi than used on cellular for the first time in 2015. WiFi offload traffic came in at 3.9 exabytes per month, exceeding the 3.7 exabytes of monthly cellular traffic. Cisco says that by 2020, 38.1 exabytes of WiFi offload traffic will be generated each month, continuing to exceed monthly cellular use of 30.6 exabytes -- again illustrating how important other access technologies will still be in a 5G world. (See Cisco's VNI Shines Light on Mobile Offload.)

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

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