We’ll be using 14 GBs of mobile data per month by 2020, report says

Today's big data revolution will feel like 'the arrival of a floppy disk,' telco vendor Ericsson says.

Mobile data traffic will jump.
Credit: Ericsson

If you thought that your Mobile Network Operator’s (MNO’s) data overages were restrictive now, just wait a few years.

By 2020 we’ll be using 14 gigabytes (GBs) of data per active smartphone in North America, according to Ericsson, the mobile network equipment maker, who has just released a report on MNO growth.

By comparison, using the latest figures available, we used 2.4 GBs per month in 2014.

Getting expensive

That’s a 35 percent compounded growth rate, and it means that either caps have to increase, or prices have to come down, or both. Or we’ll go broke.

For example, today Verizon Business will sell you 200 GBs of data, for 100 lines, for $1,400 per month. That’s only 2 GB per phone.

But at 2020’s 14 GB estimate, your monthly bill for those 100 phones’ data will come in at $9,800, or $98 a phone, at today’s prices. You can add the device plan charges to that too.

AT&T doesn’t do any better. It will sell you an individual 15GB chunk of data for $130, for the month, today. Add device access charges to that too.

For comparison 3GBs today will come in at $40 for the month.

And what about a Mobile Virtual Network Operator, like piggy-backer Straight Talk? Seven GBs of data there costs $75. So you’ll need a couple of those hotspot plans. Phew.

‘Like the arrival of the floppy disk’

“This immense growth in data usage will make today's big data revolution feel like the arrival of a floppy disk,” Rima Qureshi, of Ericsson said in a press release about the report.

Caveat alert: Ericsson is one of the world’s largest telco equipment vendors, so you’d expect it to be somewhat bullish.


However, the numbers are impressive.

Each year until 2020, mobile video traffic will grow by a “staggering” 55 percent per year, the report says, and video will constitute around 60 percent of all mobile data traffic by the end of that period. 

MNO subscriptions

US consumers have already adopted smartphones, which is why the report only projects five percent compounded growth for the period 2014 to 2020—not much.

However, it’s use that’s growing. Total mobile traffic will grow 40 percent, Ericsson thinks.

Much of that subscription growth in North America will come from “an increased number of connected devices per user,” and not the addition of new users.

Additional devices include tablets, mobile PCs and router subscriptions.

5G Usage

By 2020 we’ll see 5G deployed, with 5G subscriptions available in the year 2020.

Machine-type communications, also known as Internet of Things, or IoT, will drive that 5G deployment and adoption, to a large extent, the report says.


Mobility rapidly changing

But perhaps one of the most startling statistics provided by the report is the rapid increase in mobility. Businesses are seeing the advantages of a mobile connected workforce, and are getting phones for workers. Much more than ever before.

About 75 percent of the U.S. mobile high-tech business user respondents, used in the report, said that they have access to a mobile data plan and mobile device from their employer.

That compares to less than 50 percent in 2012—just two years ago.

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