By 2020, global consumption demand for digital content and services on mobile and portable devices will see a global average increase of 30 to 45 times from 2014 levels — with some markets experiencing as much as a 98-fold jump.

Data demand will exceed supply by about 19 percent by 2020, Bell Labs Consulting, a division of Nokia Bell Labs, now argues, unless access providers boost investment.

Bell Labs Consulting found that audio and video streaming will be the highest contributors to the increased traffic demand in coming years, accounting for a 79 percent total increase by 2020.

But there is another important expected trend: a vast increase in the number of devices requiring only narrowband bandwidth, but lots of signaling.

A typical IoT device may conduct 2,500 transactions or sessions  to consume just 1 MB of data.

So the real load is on the signaling network, not the bearer traffic network, until and when video becomes a major IoT application.

And Wi-Fi offload will be a huge factor. Bell Labs Consulting estimates that, by 2020, 67 percent of the worldwide consumption demand can be met by Wi-Fi.  

In North America, video communications traffic will rise from 47 to 86 percent, driven by Millennial teens and young adults.

As video calls and conferencing rises, email traffic will fall, from the 47 percent of communication traffic it represented in 2014 to about seven percent in 2020. Meanwhile messaging will become a more dominant form of communications.

The majority of streaming, about 66 to 74 percent, will come from home-based networks — driven by more content and larger, higher-resolution devices. That is one reason why Wi-Fi will be so significant. Consumers will do most of their streaming while at home.

The number of IoT connected devices is expected to grow from 1.6 billion in 2014 to between 20 and 46 billion by 2020.

Of this total, cellular IoT devices will be between 1.6 billion and 4.6 billion in 2020. Despite this massive adoption, the overall cellular traffic generated by IoT devices will only account for two percent of the total mobile traffic by 2020 until video-enabled sensors and cameras begin to predominate.

Signaling traffic is where there likely will be an impact, however.

As a result, daily network connections due to cellular IoT devices will grow by 16 to 135 times by 2020 and will be three times the connections initiated by human generated traffic.