Mobile network data traffic also includes traffic generated by fixed wireless access (FWA) services
Over the past two years the COVID-19 pandemic revealed just how crucial it is to have robust fixed network and mobile telecoms infrastructures, as well as good coverage. Although commuting was down owing to the huge expansion of working from home and home schooling, and some internet traffic shifted from mobile to fixed networks, mobile data transfers in Switzerland expanded again in 2020 and 2021. For example, the volume of data transmitted on Swisscom's mobile network swelled by 13% in 2021 alone, reaching 57 times its level of nine years ago. By its own account, Sunrise UPC is currently seeing data traffic double every 16 months.
In its November 2021 Mobility Report, Ericsson estimates that mobile networks now carry 300 times the data they did in 2011, when the Report was first published. Data traffic on mobile networks worldwide rocketed by 42% between 2020 and 2021 to an estimated 65 exabytes (65 billion billion bytes) per month by December 2021. Including traffic generated by fixed wireless access (FWA), monthly volume in the autumn of 2021 came to 78 exabytes. Global mobile data traffic could expand by a factor of 4.4 in the coming years, to a total of 288 exabytes per month in 2027, or 370 if FWA is factored in.
Reasons include the rising number of mobile contracts linked to smartphones, and an increase in the data volumes included in those contracts, which is being driven mainly by the rising consumption of video content. According to Ericsson, video accounted for as much as 69% of mobile data traffic in 2021 and could rise to almost 79% by 2027.
This growth is driven in particular by the increasing popularity of embedded videos in numerous online applications, by the expansion in the use of video streaming services (VoD), which is reflected in both rising subscriber numbers and longer viewing times, and by ever higher resolutions on smartphone displays.
The lion's share of mobile data traffic is still absorbed by LTE networks which, according to Ericsson, covered some 80% of the world's population at the end of 2020, and are expected to reach 95% by 2027. The third quarter of 2021 saw a further increase in LTE subscribers, to 4.6 billion.
LTE established itself as the most important access technology in 2018 and is likely to remain so until 2027. After a record of 4.7 billion contract customers was reached in 2021, numbers are expected to decline to 3.3 billion by 2027, when the migration of increasing numbers of LTE contracts to 5G has been completed.
As providers continue to move to 5G, the number of 5G subscribers worldwide is put at 660 million as at the end of 2021. Ericsson believes that there will be 4.4 billion in 2027, accounting for almost half (49%) of all mobile telephony contracts and making 5G the dominant technology. Customers are transitioning to 5G faster than they did to 4G after its launch in 2009, putting 5G on track to reach the one-billion milestone two years earlier. It could be rolled out faster than any previous generation of mobile communications technology.
Last modification 02.06.2022