Wi-Fi Offload Set to Skyrocket, Fueled by Mobile Data Surge

Cisco Forecasts Mobile Data Traffic Will Increase 13-Fold from 2012 to 2017

With mobile data traffic expected to grow 13-fold between 2012 and 2017, service providers will dramatically increase the amount of traffic they offload via Wi-Fi networks, from 33% to 46% of all data from smartphones and other mobile devices over that period, according to Cisco Systems’ latest forecast.

Mobile data traffic will reach 11.2 exabytes per month (134 exabytes annually) by 2017, a 66% compound annual growth rate over the period, according to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast for 2012 to 2017.

The amount of mobile data offloaded to wired networks each month is expected to grow even faster, expanding 22-fold over the same period. In 2012, 33% of total mobile data traffic was offloaded to fixed-line networks via Wi-Fi (429 petabytes per month), as opposed to delivered over cellular networks. By 2017, 46% of total mobile data traffic will be offloaded, amounting to a whopping 9.6 exabytes per month. An exabyte is equal to 1 quintillion bytes.

During the 2012 to 2017 forecast period, Cisco anticipates that global mobile data traffic will outgrow global fixed data traffic by three times.

That will be driven by more mobile video, which will represent 66% of global mobile data traffic by 2017 (up from 51% in 2012) and more users -- 5.2 billion by 2017, up from 4.3 billion in 2012.

In addition, average global mobile network speeds will increase 7-fold from 2012 (0.5 Mbps) to 2017 (3.9 Mbps). And by 2017, there will be more than 10 billion mobile-ready devices/connections, including more than 1.7 billion machine-to-machine (M2M) connections (up from 7 billion total mobile-ready devices and M2M connections in 2012).

“It represents what we see as a tsunami of data flowing over the world’s mobile Internet to satisfy our need to connect people, data and things as part of the Internet of Everything,” Cisco vice president of product and solutions marketing Doug Webster said.

Geographically, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East and Africa are projected to have the highest regional growth rates, with 76% and 77% CAGRs respectively for 2012-17. North America will have a 56% CAGR (9.4-fold growth) and Western Europe will have a 50% CAGR (7.6-fold growth) over the same period.

Cisco’s mobile VNI study is based on analyst forecasts and real-world mobile data usage studies, with the vendor applying its own assumptions and estimates. For example, the current Cisco forecast assumes 7% annual efficiency for improved video compression rates.