The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Mobile Data Traffic Explodes, Cisco Reports

Data use 2.6 times greater in 2010 than in 2009

2 min read
Mobile Data Traffic Explodes, Cisco Reports

The LA Timesreported on Monday that according to the latest data traffic report from  Cisco Systems, in 2010 "... the amount of mobile data sent was 2.6 times what it was in 2009."


"By 2015, people will send 26 times more mobile data than they do now."

A related story in today's Sidney Morning Herald says that Cisco's Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2010 - 2015 (view full report in PDF here) indicates that in Australia, "mobile data usage is forecast to grow 32-fold from 2010 to 2015." Most of the growth is expected to come from mobile video.

The Sydney Morning Herald article notes that Australian telecoms have severely underestimated the growth in data usage, which has led to problems at Optus when the iPhone was first launched and more recently at Vodafone.

In 2009, the average Australian smartphone used 41 megabytes of data; in 2010, this grew to 119 megabytes; by 2015, it is expected to reach 1,548 megabytes.

In the US, Cisco reports that AT&T says that its traffic grew 30 times from 3rd quarter 2009 to 3rd quarter 2010, which indicates why it continues to struggle since it introduced the iPhone in 2007.

The Cisco report also shows iPhone owners currently using 355 MB per month, Android owners 209 MB per month, and Blackberry owners 104 MB per month on average. How Verizon's network is going to cope with the introduction of iPhones this month will be interesting, but it may be that the real worry for telecoms is the rapid growth in Android users more than new iPhone users.

I couldn't find any handy break-outs of average smart phones usage in the US, but this now-dated article from July 2010 in Digital Trends quoting Nielsen data reported that the average US smartphone owner used 298 MB of data per month then - up from 90 MB in 2009.

The Cisco report also says that:

"By 2015, 4 major regions (Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East) and 40 countries (including India, Indonesia, and Nigeria) will have more people with mobile network access than with access to electricity at home. The off-grid, on-net population will reach 138 million by 2015."

The report also stated that:

"The 2010 mobile data traffic growth rate was higher than anticipated. Last year's forecast projected that the growth rate would be 149 percent. This year's estimate is that global mobile data traffic grew 159 percent in 2010."

It will be interesting to see if this year's data use grows even faster than what Cisco is now predicting.

The Conversation (0)

Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

Keep Reading ↓Show less