It might still seem a bit unusual to hear an executive at a major company in the undersea bandwidth business argue that his firm, like all others, has to be “in” the mobile business.
“Without mobile, you are in trouble: you have to be part of mobile.” according to Andrew Kwok, Hutchison Global Communications president, international and carrier business.
That doesn’t necessarily mean offering retail mobile services. It does reflect a recognition of what drives global bandwidth. Mobile connections already outnumber fixed Internet access connections globally.
Of roughly three billion Internet connections in service in 2014, about 2.3 billion used mobile access.
That said, North American fixed network bandwidth consumption is between two and three orders of magnitude higher than median end user consumption.
But mobile consumption is growing, in part because more smartphones are in use, and in part because video is becoming the dominant driver of mobile bandwidth.
About 75 percent of mobile data traffic in 2019 will be driven by smartphones, according to the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index.
Mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent of total mobile data traffic by the end of 2012 and grew to 55 percent by the end of 2014.
So mobile data traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 57 percent from 2014 to 2019, reaching 24.3 exabytes per month by 2019, according to Cisco.
In a sense, mobile is growing in importance because it increasingly represents the way most people use the Internet. Mobile networks also are getting faster. For example, 4G traffic will be more than half of the total mobile traffic by 2017.
At the same time, Internet traffic now dominates global bandwidth requirements, and content–especially video content–dominates Internet traffic.
Increasingly, for all those reasons, mobile also drives Internet traffic, growing 45 percent annually.
Global mobile data traffic grew 69 percent in 2014, for example.
Granted, service providers have several tools to increase effective bandwidth. Different network architectures and better air interfaces will help. But almost nobody believes the growth can be accommodated without allocation of additional spectrum.