Video usage to account for 60% of all global mobile data traffic

DetailsMichelle Clancy | 24 July 2015

Global mobile data traffic is set to reach 52 million terabytes (TB) in 2015, an increase of 59% from 2014, according to research firm Gartner.

The rapid growth is set to continue through 2018, when mobile data levels are estimated to reach 173 million TB. Out of that, video usage as a percentage of total data usage set to rise from 50% now, to 60% by 2018.

That usage will vary according to provider business models however. In markets where data caps are low, video streaming over cellular networks even 4G networks will be less frequent. For instance, on average, Germans stream 10.6 minutes per cellular video session compared with 17.4 minutes for Americans.

"Germany and the US provide two distinct mature markets from which we can make good comparisons about CSP strategies and their impact on broader consumer behaviour," said Jessica Ekholm, research director at Gartner.

When asked if they would wait until they get to a Wi-Fi area to download an app or stream content from a video app, 54% of Germans said yes, compared to just 36% of US respondents. Overall, more than 43% of US users felt unconstrained by their data plans, compared to 20% of German users.

"We should expect CSPs to offer the best-of-breed video experience to consumers," said Ekholm. "This involves using video optimisation technologies and caching content closer to the consumer. Contract plans that single out video traffic to allow users to reach a certain cap (without touching their contract data cap) will increase usage and revenue for CSPs and meet consumer demand for more mobile video."

The survey also showed that families with children are driving mobile video usage, and are the least concerned about using cellular data to stream video regardless of income levels. This is being encouraged by CSPs enabling plans with data sharing available between devices.

And, in an initially surprising statistic, younger Boomers and older Gen Xers are bigger streamers than Millennials. A full 47% of the 45-54-year-olds surveyed stream 15 minutes or more of mobile video apps over cellular networks per session, whereas only 40% of 18- 24-year-olds stream more than 15 minutes. But, this is very likely correlated to income level.

"The key to obtaining long-term revenue growth for CSPs is how effectively they can market and sell the value of more expensive high-cap or unlimited data plans to their customers," said Ekholm. "The evidence is that once customers commit to a larger plan, their usage habits change significantly, resulting in longer-term revenue benefits for CSPs. This shows evidence of pent-up demand and an opportunity for those CSPs able to create the right package."