According to the November 2015 Ericsson Mobility Report for North America, until 2021 mobile data usage is expected to grow by 40 per cent year by year. This growth is attributed to the increased availability of mobile broadband in the U.S. and Canada and the demand by consumers for consistent access to a variety of online services like video, Internet browsing and social media. To meet these demands, operators are increasing coverage, speed and capacity to satisfy the data-heavy needs of consumers.
About 50 per cent of mobile devices in the U.S. and Canada currently run on LTE networks giving users access to higher data speeds. This increase in speed is in turn driving more data usage of online services. As this trend continues to go upward it is estimated that by 2021 mobile data usage will exceed 9 Exabytes per month (currently it is at 1.3 EB per month), which is equivalent to 900,000 copies of the total printed collection of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
What’s more interesting, smartphones will contribute to over 90 per cent of the data usage growth from now until 2021. This isn’t a surprising prognosis, as many are now using smartphones to access data daily. The report went on to add that mobile subscriptions will increase by 45 per cent in the U.S. and Canada by 2021. That is a huge increase from 280 million mobile subscriptions today to about 410 million by 2021. As the popularity of smartphones continues to grow, we will see a dramatic decline of basic phones as well.
The primary use of mobile
After analysing the amount of time spent playing applications on mobile devices, communication services like voice calling, instant messaging, voice and video calling over IP, email and social networking continue to be the principal reasons for mobile usage. About 90 per cent of voice calling in the U.S. and Canada is done through traditional voice calls, while traditional network-based SMS is still a popular way to text for three out of every four users.
By the end of 2015 LTE is expected to represent about 50 per cent of mobile subscriptions in the U.S. and Canada. This figure is forecast to grow to more than 95 per cent of LTE/5G subscriptions by 2021 as consumers migrate from other technologies. This surge will allow operators to provide consumers with more advanced services such as Voice over LTE (VoLTE) along with the high-speed, always-connected experience they’ve come to expect.
The increase in LTE availability enables users to use more mobile data. Today the average mobile user consumes about 3.8 GB of data per month, by 2021 this is estimated to increase to about 22 GB of data per month. This sharp increase is anticipated due to higher resolution screens, video steaming, social networking and other apps. The faster it gets the more usage there will be.
Video consumption on mobile devices on the whole is driving a data surge. Over the past two years there has been a 50 per cent increase in the number of users that watch video on their smartphones weekly with a greater demand among consumers between the ages of 16-19. Short videos remain the most popular video category but there has been an increase in long format videos such as full-length movies, as well.
Another interesting development is Wi-Fi calling, which allows mobile users to make phone calls and send messages from their smartphone, tablets and PCs using a Wi-Fi network. Many use this service because Wi-Fi calling does not require a separate app to be installed. Today Wi-Fi calling is evolving as a way to support voice calls in indoor locations and when travelling internationally.
As the need for speed continues to grow in the mobile world, operators are responding by rapidly expanding LTE in both the U.S. and Canada. This massive expansion along with the growing amounts of video content and use of social media are creating an explosive spout in mobile data usage that should continue well beyond 2021.
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