Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile
Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2015–2020
February 3, 2016
The Cisco® Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update
is part of the comprehensive Cisco VNI Forecast, an ongoing initiative to track and
forecast the impact of visual networking applications on global networks. This paper
presents some of Cisco’s major global mobile data traffic projections and growth
The Mobile Network in 2015
Global mobile data traffic grew 74 percent in 2015. Global mobile data traffic reached 3.7 exabytes per month
at the end of 2015, up from 2.1 exabytes per month at the end of 2014.
Mobile data traffic has grown 4,000-fold over the past 10 years and almost 400-million-fold over the past
15 years. Mobile networks carried fewer than 10 gigabytes per month in 2000, and less than 1 petabyte per month
in 2005. (One exabyte is equivalent to one billion gigabytes, and one thousand petabytes.)
Fourth-generation (4G) traffic exceeded third-generation (3G) traffic for the first time in 2015. Although 4G
connections represented only 14 percent of mobile connections in 2015, they already account for 47 percent of
mobile data traffic, while 3G connections represented 34 percent of mobile connections and 43 percent of the
traffic. In 2015, a 4G connection generated six times more traffic on average than a non-4G connection.
Mobile offload exceeded cellular traffic for the first time in 2015. Fifty-one percent of total mobile data traffic
was offloaded onto the fixed network through Wi-Fi or femtocell in 2015. In total, 3.9 exabytes of mobile data traffic
were offloaded onto the fixed network each month.
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More than half a billion (563 million) mobile devices and connections were added in 2015. Smartphones
accounted for most of that growth. Global mobile devices and connections in 2015 grew to 7.9 billion, up from
7.3 billion in 2014.
Globally, smart devices represented 36 percent of the total mobile devices and connections in 2015; they
accounted for 89 percent of the mobile data traffic. (For the purposes of this study, “smart devices” refers to mobile
connections that have advanced multimedia/computing capabilities with a minimum of 3G connectivity.) In 2015,
on an average, a smart device generated 14 times more traffic than a nonsmart device.
Mobile network (cellular) connection speeds grew 20 percent in 2015. Globally, the average mobile network
downstream speed in 2015 was 2,026 kilobits per second (kbps), up from 1,683 kbps in 2014.
Mobile video traffic accounted for 55 percent of total mobile data traffic in 2015. Mobile video traffic now
accounts for more than half of all mobile data traffic.
The top 1 percent of mobile data subscribers generated 7 percent of mobile data traffic, down from
18 percent in June 2014. According to a mobile data usage study conducted by Cisco, the top 20 percent of
mobile users generated 59 percent of mobile data traffic, and the top 1 percent generated 7 percent.
Average smartphone usage grew 43 percent in 2015. The average amount of traffic per smartphone in 2015
was 929 MB per month, up from 648 MB per month in 2014.
Smartphones (including phablets) represented only 43 percent of total global handsets in use in 2015, but
represented 97 percent of total global handset traffic. In 2015, the typical smartphone generated 41 times more
mobile data traffic (929 MB per month) than the typical basic-feature cell phone (which generated only 23 MB per
month of mobile data traffic).