Rohit Dadwal
Feb 24, 2012

Asia eats data: the growth in mobile data traffic and what it means

There’s no doubting the potential of mobile in Asia. The numbers keep rolling in. Forbes just reported the findings of the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index report, and the numbers are truly ...

Asia eats data: the growth in mobile data traffic and what it means

There’s no doubting the potential of mobile in Asia. The numbers keep rolling in. Forbes just reported the findings of the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index report, and the numbers are truly impressive. Monthly global mobile traffic is estimated to exceed 10 exabytes by 2016. (An Exabyte is one million terabytes.) Hard as it is to imagine that amount, forty percent of that amount of traffic will come from Asia.

Mobile data usage in Asia is set to explode. There was 205,624 terabytes of mobile data traffic per month in 2011 – but according to the estimates, that volume will grow to 4,322,879 terabytes per month in 2016. That’s approximately 21 times the 2011 figure, which works out to a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 84% projected over a five-year span. This growth is likely to be driven by those Asian nations whose populations are avid users of mobile communications: primarily Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and China, but other nations (such as the Philippines and India) are not too far behind, and may in fact overtake them in the years to come. China alone is set to account for over 10% of the world’s mobile data traffic by 2016.

These figures make it clear that Asia is going to catch up to the rest of the world in terms of mobile data usage, and if anything, mobile data traffic will be the figure to watch in Asia. But what will all these mobile users be doing with all that data?

Extrapolating from current mobile activity, it seems logical to assume that much of the activity will be the same as what that powers the Internet, only this time on the mobile platform. Email will remain a communication constant, as are various instant messaging or chat options. Users have come to depend on the ‘net for quick, reliable access to information, whether it is through search, or through local review/recommendation platforms. Mobile additionally enables access as location-aware search that can deliver contextually appropriate information. Mobile is also becoming a platform for social media activity, with the human instinct to connect to other people being the driver of this movement. And of course, entertainment (primarily in the form of games) is another function that fills the mobile space.

Beyond that, however, the sky’s the limit. Any other answer would be pure speculation, and the truth is that it is impossible to predict with any certainty what new technology or functionality will arise to take advantage of the vast amounts of mobile data that will be used. The only certainty is the incredible potential inherent in the mobile platform – and it will indeed be interesting to see how people will take advantage of it.

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