Cape Town – If you thought you've seen rapid internet
growth in the past couple of years in South Africa, prepare yourself for a data
Telecommunications giant Cisco's network index shows that
the amount of mobile data (the internet on cellphones, tablet computers and
laptops) in South Africa will increase forty-ninefold over the next four years. In
other words, from today the volume of data consumed on mobile devices will more
than double each year.
By 2016, 102 000 terabytes of information will be sent every
month. This is the equivalent of about 26m DVDs or 283m SMSes a second.
In that year the average mobile internet speed will be 5.4
megabits per second – enough to watch a movie smoothly on the internet. This is
vastly different from last year's average South African mobile internet speed
of 374 kilobits a second.
It will be made possible by faster internet connections such
as 4G and LTE (long-term evolution), which will soon be available in South
“In the past we were somewhat conservative with our
forecasts,” said Kevin Bloch, Cisco Australia’s head of technology.
According to him, the network index is a mathematical model
that has been pretty accurate for the past five years. It's the same model
Cisco offers telecommunications companies like Telkom [TKG] and Vodacom Group [JSE:VOD] to enable
them to adjust their pricing structures.
The substantial annual growth of mobile data in Africa is
greater than in any other global region.
According to Bloch, the demand for mobile data is being
driven by factors such as more ways to connect (cellphones, tablets and
laptops), faster speeds, more users and, most importantly, more video material.
From Cisco’s date it appears that users in South Africa have
an insatiable appetite for viewing videos on cellphones and tablets.
demand is growing so quickly that the company predicts that about 84% of all
mobile data will involve video by 2016. Last year it comprised 45%.
Growth in tablet computers, which did not exist two years
ago, is also rising markedly.
Tablets inherently use more data than cellphones,
and Cisco expects the volume of data being sent from tablets in 2016 to be
almost twice the size of the internet in South Africa in 2011. That of course
includes mobile and fixed-line internet connections (such as ADSL).
The company expects that accessing the internet on mobile
devices will becoming increasingly popular. Mobile data is expected to grow
three times faster than fixed-line data.
By 2016 the amount of mobile data traffic will be almost 17
times the entire South African internet of 2005.
The company expects that by 2016 there will be about 10
billion mobile connections like cellphones and smartphones, considerably more
than the anticipated population. According to Bloch this is because people will
own more than one mobile device, such as both a cellphone and a tablet.
“This is incredible, given that ten years ago no one even
owned a cellphone,” he said.
The mobile internet then and now:
The monthly mobile data volume on the internet was 2090
terabytes – equal to about a million DVDs or 6m text messages per second.
Cellphones made up 18% of mobile internet traffic.
The monthly mobile data volume is expected to be 102 000
terabytes. That is equal to about 26m DVDs or 283m SMSes per second.
Cellphones will make up 33% of mobile internet traffic.
The amount of mobile data in 2016 will be around 0.1
exabytes, or more than one exabyte per year.
An exabyte is about a billion gigabytes (one byte with 18
zeros; the escalation is kilo, mega, giga, tera, peta, exa).
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