Attempting to predict a single forecast for the evolution of the wireless service and traffic mix is risky, because there is significant uncertainty over how mobile markets will evolve. In particular, there is uncertainty over the extent to which complementary platforms (including WLAN, femtocells and sideloading) will be used alongside 3G macrocell networks to deliver services on 3G devices. To provide useful bounds to this uncertainty, we have produced service usage and traffic forecasts for two contrasting, but realistic, market scenarios. These are:
- a wireless-only scenario, in which 3G operators rely primarily on the wireless delivery of services, using a combination of a 3G network and a broadcasting system, and proactively promote mobile broadband services
- an integrated scenario, where 3G operators increasingly promote fixed broadband services and integrate fixed networks into their delivery platforms. 3G traffic volumes compared with the wireless-only scenario are significantly reduced through the widespread use of WLAN, femtocells and sideloading.
We forecast large 3G traffic volume increases in both scenarios, particularly for the wireless-only scenario.
In the five year period to the end of 2014, 3G traffic volumes will increase by more than 20 times in the wireless-only scenario, and by nearly 8 times in the integrated scenario.
In the wireless-only scenario, complementary delivery systems will account for a relatively small proportion of the overall service traffic, as shown in the figure below, which shows the forecast average traffic per 3G device carried by each delivery mechanism. 3G macrocell networks will carry the vast majority (77.3%) of service traffic by 2014 – equivalent to 1.72GB per month of traffic per 3G device by 2014. Therefore, 3G networks will need to support this traffic volume by 2014 in the wireless-only scenario.
In contrast, indoor systems and sideloading will have a more important role in the integrated scenario, although the beneficial impact of femtocells on 3G macrocell traffic volumes will only occur in those households where femtocells are deployed (and they will not be deployed universally).
In the integrated scenario, 3G macrocell networks will carry 57.3% of total service traffic by 2014, as shown in the figure below. Compared with the wireless-only scenario, there will be a smaller proportion of mobile broadband service users in the integrated scenario, with many 3G operators promoting fixed broadband services. Since mobile broadband services are network-intensive, average traffic volumes will be lower in the integrated scenario than the wireless-only scenario, so forecast 3G traffic volumes will be less challenging for 3G operators, albeit significantly greater than current levels by 2014. On average, 3G networks will need to support 0.54GB per month of traffic per 3G device by 2014 in the integrated scenario.