Traffic Evolution Characteristics of the Mobile Internet

Mobile Internet has recently started to become a reality for both users and operators thanks to the success of novel, extremely practical smartphones, portable computers with easy-to-use 3G USB modems and attractive business models. Based on the current trends in telecommunications, vendors prognosticate that mobile networks will suffer an immense traffic explosion in the packet switched domain up to year 2020.

One of the most important reasons of the traffic volume increase in mobile telecommunications is demographical. According to the current courses, world’s population is growing at a rate of 1.2% annually, and the total population is expected to be 7.6bn in year 2020. This trend also implies a net addition of 77m new inhabitants per year.

Today, over 25% of the global population – this means about two billion people – are using the Internet. Over 60% of the global population –now we are talking about five billion people – are subscribers of some mobile communication service.
Additionally, the number of wireless broadband subscriptions is about to exceed the total amount of fixed broadband subscriptions and this development becomes even more significant considering that the volume of fixed broadband subscriptions is gathering much slower.

The expansion of wireless broadband subscribers not only inflates the volume of mobile traffic directly, but also facilitates the growth in broadband wireless enabled terminals. However, more and more devices enable mobile access to the Internet, only a limited part of users is attracted or open to pay for the wireless Internet services meaning that voice communication will remain the dominant mobile application also in the future.

Despite this and the assumption of implying that the increase in the number of people potentially using mobile internet services will likely saturate after 2015 in industrialized countries, the mobile internet subscription growth potential will be kept high globally by two main factors.

On one hand the growth of subscribers continues unbroken in the developing markets: mobile broadband access through basic handhelds will be the only access to the Internet for many people in Asia/Pacific.

On the other hand access device, application and service evolution is also expected to sustain the capability of subscriber growth. The most prominent effect of services and application evolution is the increase of video traffic: it is foreseen that due to the development of data-hungry entertainment services like television/radio broadcasting and VoD, 66% of mobile traffic will be video by 2014.

A significant amount of this data volume will be produced by mobile Web-browsing which is expected to become the biggest source of mobile video traffic (e.g., YouTube). Cisco also forecasts that the total volume of video (including IPTV, VoD, P2P streaming, interactive video, etc.) will reach almost 90% of all consumer traffic (fixed and mobile) by the year 2012, producing a substantial increase of the overall mobile traffic of more than 200% each year.

Video traffic is also anticipated to grow so drastically in the forthcoming years that it could overstep Peer-to-Peer (P2P) traffic [4]. Emerging web technologies (such as HTML5), the increasing video quality requirements (HDTV, 3D, SHV) and special application areas (virtual reality experience sharing and gaming) will further boost this process and set new challenges to mobile networks.

Since video and related entertainment services seems to become dominant in terms of bandwidth usage, special optimization mechanisms focusing on content delivery will also appear in the near future. The supposed evolution of Content Delivery Networking (CDN) and smart data caching technologies might have further impact on the traffic characteristics and obviously on mobile architectures.

Another important segment of mobile application and service evolution is social networking. As devices, networks and modes of communications evolve, users will choose from a growing scale of services to communicate (e.g., e-mail, Instant Messaging, blogging, micro-blogging, VoIP and video transmissions, etc.). In the future, social networking might evolve even further, like to cover broader areas of personal communication in a more integrated way, or to put online gaming on the next level deeply impregnated with social networking and virtual reality.

Even though video seems to be a major force behind the current traffic growth of the mobile Internet, there is another emerging form of communications called M2M (Machine-to-Machine) which has the potential to become the leading traffic contributor in the future. M2M sessions accommodate end-to-end communicating devices without human intervention for remote controlling, monitoring and measuring, road safety, security/identity checking, video surveillance, etc.

Predictions state that there will be 225m cellular M2M devices by 2014 with little traffic per node but resulting significant growth in total, mostly in uplink direction.

The huge number of sessions with tiny packets creates a big challenge for the operators. Central network functions may not be as scalable as needed by the increasing number of sessions in the packet-switched domain.

As a summary it can state that the inevitable mobile traffic evolution is foreseen thanks to the following main factors: growth of the mobile subscriptions, evolution of mobile networks, devices, applications and services, and significant device increase potential resulted by the tremendous number of novel subscriptions for Machine-to- Machine communications.

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