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The Wireless Blog from Unwired Insight discusses the latest developments in wireless networks and services, including the new technologies and architectures of LTE-Advanced and 5G. For expert advice on 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G mobile systems and standards, including GSM, UMTS, LTE, LTE-Advanced and 5G-NR, please contact us.

Wireless network traffic to increase tenfold

Mobile network operators in developed regions should prepare for a tenfold increase in wireless network traffic by 2015, as data traffic rapidly overtakes voice, according to the new report, Wireless network traffic 2008-2015: forecasts and analysis, written by Unwired Insight.

Total wireless network traffic from cellular users in developed regions is set to increase substantially, driven by: improved cellular devices (such as USB modems and smartphones); widespread deployment of advanced 3G technologies and femtocells; affordable pricing (particularly for traffic-intensive services); more indoor usage of cellular devices; and increasing size of items of Web content.

“While developed regions will account for just 25% of the cellular user population by 2015, they will generate 65% of total global wireless network traffic,” according to Dr Mark Heath, the report’s co-author. “This is due to a higher proportion of advanced handsets and the earlier deployment of more advanced cellular technologies, such as LTE, which have higher throughput.”

Key findings of the new report include:

  • Historically, voice telephony has dominated wireless network traffic, and popular data services, such as SMS, consume a tiny amount of network resource. However, the take-up of USB modems and a broad range of data services on smartphones will increase wireless network traffic. Average wireless network traffic per cellular user (for all voice and data services) in developed regions will increase to eight times its 2008 level by 2015, rising from 56MB per month to 455MB per month.
  • While voice traffic will continue to increase, as a result of on-going fixed-mobile substitution, data traffic will rise at significantly faster and come to dominate wireless network traffic. By 2015, data will account for 94% of total wireless network traffic in developed regions.
  • A number of uncertainties could result in traffic levels differing from our base-case forecasts. An upside forecast derived by Unwired Insight indicates that by 2015, traffic per customer in developed regions will grow to almost 30 times its level in 2008.

“Strong take-up of USB modem services could result in traffic per cellular customer increasing to as much as 23 times its 2008 level by 2015. Mobile operators may need networks that are able to support a huge increase in traffic, and should review their strategies towards USB modem services,” says Dr Alastair Brydon, the report’s co-author.

“In the short-term, underutilisation of 3G networks allows mobile operators to offer low-cost USB services, but operators may be forced to rethink their strategies when they are confronted by the need to make further network investment.” Wireless Network Traffic, 2008-2015: forecasts and analysis provides detailed forecasts of wireless network traffic, broken down by terminal and service type, for each major region of the world (Western Europe, North America, developed Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Central and South America, developing Asia and the rest of the world).

Unwired Insight was established in 2001 and provides expert advice on wireless technology, mobile networks, devices and standards, including GSM, GPRS, DECT, UMTS and LTE.

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