Q. Why did Cisco develop the Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast?
A. The ramifications of prior Internet traffic growth rates prompted Cisco to develop a realistic forecast that is based on multiple levels and sources of real data and projections. This data is of great interest to Cisco, but we also expect that our customers (in all segments) and the industry at large can benefit from our findings.
Q. What is visual networking?
A. Consumer and business IP networking trends are largely generated by video and by social networking and collaboration technologies (such as Web 2.0 applications), the combination of which is termed visual networking. A visual networking experience can range from a prearranged Cisco TelePresence® meeting to the upload or download of video and multimedia content to and from any device a consumer chooses: TV, PC, mobile handset, or any of the new consumer devices available today, such as e-readers, digital photo frames, and video cameras.
Q. What is an exabyte? What is a zettabyte?
A. An exabyte is 1,000,000,000 gigabytes. A zettabyte is 1,000 exabytes. Figure 1 shows examples of data that reaches such scales.
Figure 1. The Petabyte, Exabyte, Zettabyte, and Yottabyte Scales
About the Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, 2012-2017
Q. What is the Cisco® VNI Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast?
A. The Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast projects future mobile data traffic over cellular networks-for example, second-, third-, or fourth-generation (2G, 3G, or 4G) networks or radio networks. The mobile data traffic forecast is part of the comprehensive Cisco VNI. The Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast is published annually in February. The comprehensive Cisco VNI Forecast is published annually in June, and includes a fixed IP traffic forecast as well as the updated Mobile Data Traffic Forecast of the same year.
Q. Why does Cisco develop and maintain the Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast?
A. Although mobile data traffic has historically been a small percentage of overall global IP traffic, mobile data traffic is expected to grow at a 66 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2017-2017, three times faster than the growth of global IP fixed traffic during the same period. Given the rapid growth and changing dynamics in the mobile data space, this data is of great interest to Cisco. We also expect that our customers (in all segments) and the industry at large can benefit from our findings.
Q. Does the Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast include Wi-Fi?
A. Wi-Fi is not included, except in the calculation of traffic offloaded from the mobile network (along with femtocell). Wi-Fi is included as a fixed network component in the comprehensive VNI Traffic Forecast.
Q. What was the global mobile data traffic growth rate in 2012?
A. In 2012, global mobile data traffic grew more than 70 percent year over year, to 855 petabytes a month. Mobile data traffic growth varied by region, with the slowest growth experienced by Western Europe at 44 percent, and the highest growth rates experienced by Middle East and Africa (101 percent) and Asia Pacific (95 percent).
Q. What were the reasons behind the mobile data traffic slowdown in Western Europe in 2012?
A. There are three key reasons for the lower mobile data traffic growth in Europe last year:
• The implementation of tiered mobile data packages. First introduced in 2009 and 2010, the majority of mobile users have now been migrated to tiered plans. Many operators across the globe have eliminated unlimited data plans.
• A slowdown in the number of mobile-connected laptop net additions. The number of mobile-connected laptops in Europe declined from 33.8 million at the end of 2011 to 32.6 million at the end of 2012. Europe was the only region to experience a decline; all other regions exhibited flat-to-positive growth. Because mobile-connected laptops have historically been a major contributor to mobile data traffic volume, the slowing growth has had a significant impact on our estimates.
• An increase in the amount of mobile traffic offloaded to the fixed network. Operators have encouraged the offload of traffic onto Wi-Fi networks, and offload rates continue to be high around the world. Tablet traffic that might have migrated to mobile networks has largely remained on fixed networks.
Q. What is the future outlook for mobile data traffic growth based on the updated forecast?
A. Major findings of the Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Forecast, 2012-2017 include the following.
• By 2017, global mobile data traffic will reach 11.2 exabytes per month, or a run rate of 134 exabytes annually.
• Smartphones will be 68 percent of total mobile data traffic in 2017, compared to 44 percent in 2012.
• 4G connections will be 10 percent of total mobile connections in 2017, and 45 percent of mobile data traffic.
• Global mobile network connection speeds doubled in 2012 and will increase sevenfold by 2017, reaching 3.9 Mbps.
• 46 percent of global mobile data traffic will be offloaded in 2017, up from 33 percent in 2012.
• By 2017, 66 percent of the world's mobile data traffic will be video, up from 51 percent in 2012.
• The Middle East and Africa will have the strongest mobile data traffic growth of any region at 104 percent CAGR, followed by Asia Pacific at 84 percent and Central and Eastern Europe at 83 percent.
• Globally, 73 percent of smartphones and tablets will be IPv6-capable in 2017, up from 41 percent in 2012.
Q. In the 2012 Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Forecast, you predicted a 2011-2016 global CAGR of 78 percent. In this update, you predict a 2012-2017 global CAGR of 66 percent. Why is the projected global growth rate slowing?
A. The slight slowing in the growth rate is a typical example of S-curve growth, but the actual amount of traffic continues to represent significant growth. Although the growth in 2017 is projected to be 50 percent year-over-year, down from 70 percent in 2012, the net new traffic between 2016 and 2017 will be 3.7 exabytes per month, which is four times higher than the total volume of mobile data traffic in 2012.
Q. Have there been any methodological changes since the last forecast update?
A. In the February 2013 update of the Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Forecast, we have included for the first time device and traffic projections by network category (2G, 3G, 4G) for all countries and regions covered by the forecast. The methodology was modified accordingly, and now includes separate assumptions regarding bitrates and usage per network category and device.
Q. How are mobile devices and connections categorized and defined in the current Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Forecast?
A. The current Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Forecast includes the following mobile device categories.
• Nonsmartphones: Handheld phones with a closed operating system.
• Smartphones: Mobile phones offering advanced capabilities such as the ability to run applications, often with functionality like that of a PC. Smartphones run complete operating system software and provide a standardized interface and platform for application developers.
• Laptops: This category includes laptop computers, netbooks, and ultra-mobile PCs connected to the mobile network through mobile broadband data cards, dongles, embedded modems, or mobile hotspots.
• Tablets: This category includes mobile-connected tablets (typically with average screen size of 7 inches) and what are usually referred to as mobile Internet devices (typically with average screen size of 4 to 6 inches).
• Other portables: This category includes e-readers, handheld gaming consoles, digital cameras and camcorders, digital photo frames, and in-car entertainment systems. E-readers are handheld consumer electronics devices that can access and store a wide range of digitized books for portable use. Newer generations of e-readers are also taking on tablet-type functionality. Photo frames can read, store, and display digital photos in slideshow mode (the most popular screen sizes fall in the 7-inch to 8-inch range). Cellular-enabled digital photo frames can download photos from online photo sites through an embedded cellular modem card. In some cases, the digital photo frame is assigned a phone number or email address so that pictures can be sent directly from a mobile phone to the frame.
• M2M modules: Machine-to-machine technologies that allow systems to communicate with other devices of the same capability, such as utility metering, security and surveillance, fleet management, GPS and navigation, asset tracking, and healthcare record devices.
Q. What mobile applications are covered in the current Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Forecast?
A. The updated forecast covers a variety of applications, some of which are not included in the formal study. The following applications, based on two mobile device groups (handsets and portables) are generally covered.
Q. Can you define the relationship between subscriber, user, device, and connection?
A. Within the mobile data forecast, the terms subscriber and user are used interchangeably to identify the end user generating the mobile data traffic. The device is the endpoint (for example, nonsmartphone, smartphone, tablet, or M2M module). The connection is per device to the cellular network.
Q. How do you distinguish between business and consumer traffic?
A. We (and our relevant data sources) differentiate between business and consumer mobile data traffic by billing practices or records. Therefore, if a mobile subscription is paid by a business, it is applied to our business traffic segment. All other subscriptions are considered to be consumer subscriptions.
Q. What are the top applications promoting the growth of mobile data traffic?
A. Video continues to the major application generator for mobile data traffic growth. Video reached a milestone at the end of 2012, accounting for 51 percent of global mobile data traffic, and will account for 66 percent of global mobile data traffic by 2017.
Q. What is the impact of tiered pricing models on mobile usage? Are there any new insights on the top 1 percent of mobile users?
A. Average consumption per user in an unlimited pricing plan continues to be higher than that of a user of a tiered pricing plan. However, traffic per user has increased 117 percent year over year for tiered pricing plans compared to 71 percent for unlimited plans, indicating that tiered pricing users may be seeking to fully maximize their usage plans.
New findings indicate that the top 1 percent of users is different each month. Out of each 10,000 users, there are not only 100 heavy users (1 percent) per month, but 500 to 1,000 users (5 to 10 percent) that are in the top 1 percent at some time during the course of a year.
Q. Why does this forecast include a section on IPv6-capable mobile devices?
A. With increasing industry awareness about the shortage of IPv4 addresses and transition to IPv6-capable networks, the Global Mobile Data Forecast now includes a projection of the number of mobile devices potentially capable of connecting to an IPv6-capable mobile network. A projection of the number of fixed devices potentially capable of connecting to an IPv6-capable fixed network is published as part of the comprehensive VNI report in June.
Q. Can I or my organization use or publish Cisco VNI Forecast data?
A. Yes. Cisco welcomes and encourages press, analysts, service providers, regulators, and other interested parties (business or academic) to use and reference our research. We do require that proper Cisco attribution be given for any and all Cisco VNI data that is published or shared in private or public print and electronic forms (for example, Source: Cisco Visual Networking Index [or VNI] Global Mobile Data Forecast, 2012-2017).
Q. How can I ask questions about the Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Forecast data?