3G, 4G, and now 5G?! These mobile network terms are a big part of the way companies differentiate various phones and tablets. It was easy in the beginning…1G meant analog cell phones and 2G meant digital phones. 3G, third-generation, networks were supposed to bring broadband speeds to mobile devices. But there are so many varieties of 3G that you could get speeds from 400Kbps to more than 10X that. 4G phones are supposed to be even faster, but that’s not always the case. According to PC Magazine,
The International Telecommunications Union, a standards body, tried to issue requirements to call a network 4G but they were ignored by carriers, and eventually the ITU backed down. 4G technologies include HSPA+ 21/42, WiMAX, and LTE (although some consider LTE the only true 4G of that bunch, and some people say none of them are fast enough to qualify.)
With all this variability, PC Magazine runs an annual “Fastest Mobile Networks” test across the US. The results for 2014 show different carriers ranking at the top in different regions.
But what type of mobile traffic is actually being used? How many 4G devices are out there? Are faster 4G connections consuming more bandwidth?
With networking equipment installed around the world, Cisco is in a unique position to measure data traffic. According to the “Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2013-2018,”
In 2013, a fourth-generation (4G) connection generated 14.5 times more traffic on average than a non-4G connection. Although 4G connections represent only 2.9% of mobile connections today, they already account for 30% of mobile data traffic.
The Mobile Network in 2013
More results from the Cisco report include…
- Global mobile data traffic reached 1.5 exabytes per month at the end of 2013, up from 820 petabytes per month at the end of 2012.
- Last year’s mobile data traffic was nearly 18 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000. One exabyte of traffic traversed the global Internet in 2000, and in 2013 mobile networks carried nearly 18 exabytes of traffic.
- Mobile video traffic exceeded 50% for the first time in 2012. Mobile video traffic was 53 percent of traffic by the end of 2013.
- Over half a billion (526 million) mobile devices and connections were added in 2013. Global mobile devices and connections in 2013 grew to 7 billion, up from 6.5 billion in 2012. Smartphones accounted for 77% of traffic.
- In 2013, on an average, a smart device generated 29 times more traffic than a non-smart device.
- Mobile network connection speeds more than doubled in 2013. Globally, the average mobile network downstream speed in 2013 was 1,387 kilobits per second (Kbps), up from 526 Kbps in 2012.
- The top 1% of mobile data subscribers generated 10 percent of mobile data traffic, down from 52% at the beginning of 2010.
- Average smartphone usage grew 50% in 2013. The average amount of traffic per smartphone in 2013 was 529 MB per month, up from 353 MB per month in 2012.
- Smartphones represented only 27% of total global handsets in use in 2013, but represented 95% of total global handset traffic. In 2013, the typical smartphone generated 48 times more mobile data traffic (529 MB per month) than the typical basic-feature cell phone (which generated only 11 MB per month of mobile data traffic).
The Mobile Network Through 2018
Cisco projects mobile data traffic will reach the following milestones within the next five years.
- Monthly global mobile data traffic will surpass 15 exabytes by 2018.
- The number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world’s population by 2014.
- The average mobile connection speed will surpass 2 Mbps by 2016.
- Due to increased usage on smartphones, smartphones will reach 66 percent of mobile data traffic by 2018.
- Monthly mobile tablet traffic will surpass 2.5 exabyte per month by 2018.
- Tablets will exceed 15 percent of global mobile data traffic by 2016.
- 4G traffic will be more than half of the total mobile traffic by 2018.
- There will be more traffic offloaded from cellular networks (on to Wi-Fi) than remain on cellular networks by 2018.
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