We’re not just using our smartphones to make voice calls and send text messages, instead they’re our all-in-one device for entertainment, gaming, creating content and staying connected. Your phone is your camera, your calendar and your wallet. You can edit documents and spreadsheets. You can shop, check your home security cameras and so much more.
Most importantly, we use our mobile devices to watch our favorite shows, movies and video content.
In February 2019, “The Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2017 – 2022” was released as part of the Cisco VNI Forecast, which is an ongoing initiative to track and forecast the impact of visual networking applications on global networks.
The white paper describes the ubiquity of smartphones and the staggering amount of mobile data consumed around the world. Some of the relevant findings in the report are:
More than 600 million mobile devices and connections were added globally in 2017 alone, with the number of mobile devices totaling 8.6 billion globally.
Smartphones take up a 50 percent share of total devices and connections in 2017 and are predicted to surpass 90 percent of mobile data traffic in 2022. Smartphones and phablets account for 88 percent of mobile traffic. Average smartphone usage grew to 49 percent in 2017.
Mobile data traffic grew 17-fold over 5 years, growing from 686 petabytes per month in 2012 to 11.5 exabytes per month in 2017. From 2016 to 2017 alone, global mobile data traffic grew 71 percent.
Cisco predicts that mobile data traffic will account for 20 percent of total IP traffic by 2022, with smartphones representing 90 percent of this mobile data traffic.
Closer to home, mobile data traffic in the Asia Pacific grew by 86 percent in 2017 and Cisco predicts that by 2022 the Asia Pacific region will account for 56 percent of global mobile traffic.
Though the white paper reiterates what we have already observed in our daily lives, one key finding does stand out – the amount of video we watch globally.
According to Cisco, video accounted for 59 percent of global mobile data traffic in 2017 and has represented more than half of global media data traffic since 2012. Mobile video is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 55 percent between 2017 and 2022, making up 79 percent of the world’s mobile traffic by 2022.
If you think about it, smartphones have evolved to make our viewing experience more enjoyable. Every year,
smartphone developers like Apple and Samsung introduce new devices with innovations designed for an improved mobile viewing experience. Each new generation boasts a longer lasting battery or easier ways to charge, like wireless charging, so we can watch for longer.
Screens have become bezel-less to provide more display real estate for watching videos. In 2011, the original Samsung Note stood out as a behemoth of a smartphone with a screen of 5.3 inches. The other leading phones that year were the Samsung Galaxy SII with a screen of 4.3 inches and the iPhone 4S with a screen of 3.5 inches. Today’s Note 10 has screen of 6.3 inches, the screen on the Galaxy S10 is 6.1 inches and the screen on iPhone XS is 5.8 inches. Displays also have higher resolution and pixel density to improve the viewing experience.
For telecommunications companies, the goal is to offer mobile data packages to meet the needs of subscribers to watch more videos at an affordable price.
In Guam and the Marianas, competition is fierce to offer plans that are affordable but offer the right amount of data for streaming videos, as well as for social media and all the things people want to do on their smartphones.
To meet this need for more data, IT&E re-introduced its Unlimited data plan and launched the island’s only stackable unlimited 4G LTE data plan in 2018. Dubbed Unlimited Plus, the postpaid plan allows subscribers to add two lines of unlimited data to an Unlimited plan for just $50 per line.
As for talk and text, every plan, no matter how much data you choose, comes with unlimited talk and text. When a potential customer comes in, the first question they ask is, “how much data can I get?” because, in a lot of cases, all you need is data to stay connected with your friends and family all around the world.
IT&E has also revamped its mobile data plans for prepaid subscribers, launching an unlimited daily prepaid plan this year. For just $2.50 a day, prepaid subscribers get unlimited 4G LTE data.
Improvements to network infrastructure are always in progress to increase bandwidth, expand coverage and lower latency.
It all leads to the ability to stream more videos on a smartphone, whether there’s a television in the room or not.
Technology is always evolving. We try to solve one problem and end up creating other efficiencies and advancements. It started with the desire to communicate with someone instantly over a long distance. Then, we wanted it to be portable. Now, we want to watch our video content anywhere and everywhere.
I, for one, am waiting in anticipation for the next big advancement.
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Jay R. Shedd is senior director of Sales, Marketing and Customer Service at IT&E, the largest wireless service and sales provider in Guam and the Marianas. He has more than 30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry.