Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update 2014–2019 White Paper

  • Martine Grosjean profile
    Martine Grosjean
    29 April 2015 - updated 3 years ago
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The Mobile Network in 2014

Global mobile data traffic grew 69 percent in 2014. Global mobile data traffic reached 2.5 exabytes per month at the end of 2014, up from 1.5 exabytes per month at the end of 2013.

Last year’s mobile data traffic was nearly 30 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000. One exabyte of traffic traversed the global Internet in 2000, and in 2014 mobile networks carried nearly 30 exabytes of traffic.

Mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent of total mobile data traffic for the first time in 2012. Mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent of total mobile data traffic by the end of 2012 and grew to 55 percent by the end of 2014.

Almost half a billion (497 million) mobile devices and connections were added in 2014. Global mobile devices and connections in 2014 grew to 7.4 billion, up from 6.9 billion in 2013. Smartphones accounted for 88 percent of that growth, with 439 million net additions in 2014.

Globally, smart devices represented 26 percent of the total mobile devices and connections in 2014; they accounted for 88 percent of the mobile data traffic. (For the purposes of this study, smart devices refers to mobile connections that have advanced multi-media/computing capabilities with a minimum of 3G connectivity.) In 2014, on an average, a smart device generated 22 times more traffic than a non-smart device.

Mobile network (cellular) connection speeds grew 20 percent in 2014. Globally, the average mobile network downstream speed in 2014 was 1,683 kilobits per second (kbps), up from 1,387 kbps in 2013.

In 2014, a fourth-generation (4G) connection generated 10 times more traffic on average than a non‑4G connection. Although 4G connections represent only 6 percent of mobile connections today, they already account for 40 percent of mobile data traffic.

The top 1 percent of mobile data subscribers generated 18 percent of mobile data traffic, down from 52 percent at the beginning of 2010. According to a mobile data usage study conducted by Cisco, the top 20 percent of mobile users generated 85 percent of mobile data traffic, and the top 1 percent generated 18 percent.

Average smartphone usage grew 45 percent in 2014. The average amount of traffic per smartphone in 2014 was 819 MB per month, up from 563 MB per month in 2013.

Smartphones represented only 29 percent of total global handsets in use in 2014, but represented 69 percent of total global handset traffic. In 2014, the typical smartphone generated 37 times more mobile data traffic (819 MB per month) than the typical basic-feature cell phone (which generated only 22 MB per month of mobile data traffic).

Globally, there were nearly 109 million wearable devices (a sub-segment of the machine-to-machine [M2M] category) in 2014 generating 15 petabytes of monthly traffic.

Globally, 46 percent of total mobile data traffic was offloaded onto the fixed network through Wi-Fi or femtocell in 2014. In 2014, 2.2 exabytes of mobile data traffic were offloaded onto the fixed network each month. Without offload, mobile data traffic would have grown 84 percent rather than 69 percent in 2014.

Per-user iOS mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) data usage marginally surpassed that of Android mobile devices data usage. By the end of 2014, average iOS consumption exceeded average Android consumption in North America and Western Europe.

In 2014, 27 percent of mobile devices were potentially IPv6-capable. This estimate is based on network connection speed and OS capability.

In 2014, the number of mobile-connected tablets increased 1.6-fold to 74 million, and each tablet generated 2.5 times more traffic than the average smartphone. In 2014, mobile data traffic per tablet was 2,076 MB per month, compared to 819 MB per month per smartphone.

There were 189 million laptops on the mobile network in 2014, and each laptop generated 3.2 times more traffic than the average smartphone. Mobile data traffic per laptop was 2.6 GB per month in 2014.

Average nonsmartphone usage doubled to 22 MB per month in 2014, compared to 11 MB per month in 2013. Basic handsets still make up the vast majority of handsets on the network (68 percent).

The Mobile Network Through 2019

Mobile data traffic will reach the following milestones within the next 5 years:

●   Monthly global mobile data traffic will surpass 24.3 exabytes by 2019.

●   The number of mobile-connected devices exceeded the world’s population in 2014.

●   The average global mobile connection speed will surpass 2 Mbps by 2016.

●   Because of increased usage on smartphones, smartphones will reach three-quarters of mobile data traffic by 2019.

●   Monthly mobile tablet traffic will surpass 2.0 exabytes per month by 2018.

●   Tablets will exceed 10 percent of global mobile data traffic by 2016.

●   4G traffic will be more than half of the total mobile traffic by 2017.

●   More traffic will be offloaded from cellular networks (on to Wi-Fi) than remains on cellular networks by 2016.


Global mobile data traffic will increase nearly tenfold between 2014 and 2019. Mobile data traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 57 percent from 2014 to 2019, reaching 24.3 exabytes per month by 2019.

By the end of 2014, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and by 2019 there will be nearly 1.5 mobile devices per capita. There will be 11.5 billion mobile-connected devices by 2019, including M2M modules—exceeding the world’s projected population at that time (7.6 billion).

Mobile network connection speeds will increase more than twofold by 2019. The average mobile network connection speed (1.7 Mbps in 2014) will reach nearly 4.0 megabits per second (Mbps) by 2019. By 2016, average mobile network connection speed will surpass 2.0 Mbps.

By 2019, 4G will be 26 percent of connections, but 68 percent of total traffic. By 2019, a 4G connection will generate 10 times more traffic on average than a non-4G connection.

By 2019, more than half of all devices connected to the mobile network will be “smart” devices. Globally, 54 percent of mobile devices will be smart devices by 2019, up from 26 percent in 2014. The vast majority of mobile data traffic (97 percent) will originate from these smart devices by 2019, up from 88 percent in 2014.

By 2019, 54 percent of all global mobile devices could potentially be capable of connecting to an IPv6 mobile network. More than 6.2 billion devices will be IPv6-capable by 2019.

Nearly three-fourths of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2019. Mobile video will increase 13-fold between 2014 and 2019, accounting for 72 percent of total mobile data traffic by the end of the forecast period.

By 2019, mobile-connected tablets will generate nearly double the traffic generated by the entire global mobile network in 2014. The amount of mobile data traffic generated by tablets by 2019 (3.2 exabytes per month) will be 1.3 times higher than the total amount of global mobile data traffic in 2014 (2.5 exabytes per month).

The average smartphone will generate 4.0 GB of traffic per month by 2019, a fivefold increase over the 2014 average of 819 MB per month. By 2019, aggregate smartphone traffic will be 10.5 times greater than it is today, with a CAGR of 60 percent.

By 2016, more than half of all traffic from mobile-connected devices (almost 14 exabytes) will be offloaded to the fixed network by means of Wi-Fi devices and femtocells each month. Without Wi-Fi and femtocell offload, total mobile data traffic would grow at a CAGR of 62 percent between 2014 and 2019, instead of the projected CAGR of 57 percent.

The Middle East and Africa will have the strongest mobile data traffic growth of any region with a 72‑percent CAGR. This region will be followed by Central and Eastern Europe at 71 percent and Latin America at 59 percent.

Appendix A summarizes the details and methodology of the VNI Mobile Forecast.