Global 4G traffic is booming, with massive growth forecast for this year
4G traffic is increasing rapidly as smartphones drive users to look for higher bandwidth, according to new research.
4G LTE traffic is accelerating, with a growth rate of 207% in 2013 compared to 99% for 3G traffic, said ABI Research in its new Mobile Data Traffic and Usage market data report.
Total mobile data traffic had amounted to 13,412 petabytes by the end of 2012; an increase of 69% year on year. 3G data usage occupied 46% of the total with an increase of 130% year on year.
'In developed markets, 4G is rapidly gaining traction. Verizon Wireless, for example, has reported that 50% of its data usage is on 4G LTE,' commented Marina Lu, research associate at ABI Research.
Underpinning mobile data usage are smartphone apps; their downloads and the traffic usage they generate has become a significant contributor to mobile data traffic, stated ABI.
Smartphone app downloads were 36.2 billion for 2012, up 88% compared to 2011. Asia-Pacific has overtaken North America (25%), with 39% of total smartphone app downloads.
IP and web browsing constitutes 51% of total mobile data traffic in 2012. However, by 2018, large mobile device screens and 4G data speeds will stimulate mobile video streaming and downloads to account for 56% of total traffic, ABI said.
Yet smartphone apps are a double-edged sword, ABI claimed. While they promote the adoption of mobile data tariffs, OTT instant messaging and VoIP services are threatening the operators' messaging and voice revenue models. However, operators are striving to benefit from the data usage and not just get burdened with data traffic.
'The emergent growth in enterprise apps does have potential. Both ATT and Orange have invested in enterprise apps, setting up their own inhouse service teams,' added Jake Saunders, VP for forecasting at ABI. 'Orange is offering health trusts mobile-centric ID authentication that allows them to offer confidential and secure mobile medical services that can enhance aftercare support and increase efficiency.'