Cellcos getting a handle on data surge

Gareth Sims/Informa Telecoms and Media
14 Feb 2013

There are likely to be a few last-minute adjustments to slides before this year’s Mobile World Congress, given that the industry’s most popular traffic forecasts were downgraded.

Last week, Cisco released its latest mobile data forecasts, which show a significant decline from previous estimates.

The company has lowered its figures by more than 30% in the period 2012-2016 compared with their figures published this time last year.

Some of the main reasons cited for the downgrade include

  • The implementation of tiered mobile data packages.
  • A slowdown in the number of mobile-connected laptop net additions.
  • An increase in the amount of mobile traffic offloaded to the fixed network. Cisco says that about 33% of mobile traffic was offloaded to the fixed network in 2012.
  • Higher-than-expected tablet usage on Wi-Fi.

Although it is encouraging to see that Cisco has now brought its forecasts more into line with those of most other commentators, no one should be surprised to see further reductions as many of the points highlighted above bite down on future cellular usage.

A better use of assets

Looking beyond the downgrade of its forecasts, another conclusion from the company’s research could bring much more positive news for the industry. Cisco has found that mobile data usage is becoming more evenly distributed among users. In 2010, the top 1% of users generated 50% of traffic; in 2012, the proportion dropped to 16%, below the fixed-traffic ratio of 1:20 that has been evident for years.

Because of the dynamics of a growing market, this flattening of usage distribution was inevitable as we move to mass-market adoption; but the speed and scale at which it has occurred (according to Cisco) is surprising and just goes to show how fast the industry moves.

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