Mobile video traffic is forecast to grow by almost 50 per cent annually through to 2023, when it will account for 75 per cent of all mobile data traffic. As early as 2020, Ericsson consumer lab research suggests that half of all television and video viewing in many countries will be on a mobile screen.

This may appear ambitious, and does not necessarily mean that this video will be delivered over a mobile network, but video will nevertheless drive mobile network usage. Higher resolution video will increase traffic volume too, as will more immersive video formats.

There are more mobile subscriptions than population in most regions outside Africa. Subscription penetration in Western Europe penetration is at 125% of population.

In 2017 there are an estimated 380 million mobile subscriptions in North America, but there are over 4 billion in the Asia Pacific region, including China and India. China added 30 million in the third quarter of 2017 alone. There are now around 5.3 billion unique subscribers globally.

By 2023, Ericsson predicts that there will be 7.2 billion smartphone subscriptions worldwide, receiving an average of 17 gigabytes per month of mobile data traffic. In North America the forecast is to rise from 7 gigabytes a month to 48 gigabytes per month.

Ericsson mobile data traffic forecast 2017-2023. Source: Ericsson Mobility Report.

Ericsson forecasts that total mobile data traffic will increase from 14 exabytes per month in 2017 to reach 110 exabytes per month in 2023. That is a compound annual growth rate of 42%. An exabyte is a thousand petabytes or a million terabytes. 110 exabytes is equivalent to 5.5 million years of high-definition video streaming.

In comparison, fixed network data traffic will grow from 80 exabytes per month in 2017 to 250 exabytes in 2023.