If there were any doubt that the mobile moment has arrived and that video will be a key part of it, then Cisco will help lay it to rest this week. The network hardware behemoth predicts that worldwide mobile data traffic will have increased 26-fold between 2010 and 2015 for a compound annual growth rate of 92% for the five-year period. The proliferation of connected devices and the insatiable appetite for streaming video across those devices will be the key drivers of this massive surge in mobile traffic, Cisco says.
There will be 5.6 billion Internet-enabled mobile devices in market worldwide by 2015. Video will be responsible for 66% of that mobile traffic, a 35-fold increase for the five-year period. And while we are tossing out impressive growth numbers, Cisco's Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast sees mobile traffic coming from tablets alone increasing 205%.
Cisco is grounding these projections in trends it has already seen develop just in the last year or so. Global mobile traffic increased 159% between 2009 and 2010 and at four times the rate of fixed broadband growth. That is not too surprising considering that in many areas of the world mobile phones are proving to be the first and only Internet connection available. But the sheer magnitude of the mobile data tsunami relative to the first waves of broadband Internet penetration is impressive. Cisco finds that in 2010, global mobile data traffic was already three times the size global Internet traffic had been in 2000.What do these massive numbers mean to digital video providers? Beyond the fact that mobile clearly is the opportunity no one can ignore, the mobile video landscape raises a number of unmet difficulties. Who is going to pay and how much for this mobile bandwidth is a key question. If consuming video becomes on smartphones the kind of reflex it has become on the Web, then individual data consumption and the strains on the network will become critical issues to all.
We have already seen tiered pricing emerge in the market, and I think this only confuses consumers. Who has any idea how much data they consume? As soon as carriers start talking to consumers about megabytes, their eyes glaze over. The last thing the mobile video industry needs is having consumers treat their streams the way our older relatives used to treat long distance calling. Yes youngsters there really was a time when we all asked ourselves, 'What is this going to cost me?' before dialing outside our own area code. We don't want a similar uncertainty hanging over mobile users who want to stream that next clip.