Feature Article

June 10, 2014

Will Growth of Mobile Internet Access Slow Average Speed Growth?

Measuring “typical” or “average” high speed access no longer is as simple as it once was, because people use multiple access methods, ranging from fixed network access to mobile and Wi-Fi access.

In fact, it is possible that access speed growth, in aggregate, could slow, if most connections use mobile connections. Virtually all forms of access will see at least a doubling of speed between 2013 and 2018, on a global basis.

But the proportion of access originating from mobile devices will vastly outnumber fixed network access, including both fixed networks and Wi-Fi.

Globally, residential Internet users with fixed Internet access will grow from 1.9 billion in 2013 to 2.5billion by 2018, according to Cisco's Visual Networking Index.

The total number of global consumer mobile devices and connections will grow from 6.1 billion in 2013 to 8.9 billion by 2018, the perhaps-significant development being that there will be 3.5 billion consumer smartphones in use by 2018, up from 1.5 billion in 2013.

That means Internet access will happen from 3.5 billion smartphones (and some billions of feature phones, to an extent), and 2.5 billion fixed locations, by 2018.

Ultimately, one might argue, mobile access could reach beyond 3.5 billion up to almost nine billion, assuming smart phones eventually become “phones,” and are used by nearly all mobile subscribers.

That will have “speed” implications, as the typical fixed connection will operate at 42 Mbps in 2018, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index.  

Western Europe will experience the fastest average fixed network speed of 49 Mbps by 2018, and Asia Pacific will have the greatest average speed increase, 2.7-fold growth by 2018 with fixed speeds reaching 48 Mbps by 2018.

Globally, Wi-Fi connection speeds available to mobile devices will more than double by 2018, exceeding 21 Mbps by 2018, yet still representing access at speeds less than half that of the fixed network.

Globally, mobile network connection speeds will nearly double by 2018, yet increase only to 2.5 Mbps by 2018. So, fixed networks will continue to operate at an order of magnitude faster speeds than mobile networks, in aggregate.

North America will have the highest average mobile speed (4.5 Mbps) by 2018 along with the fastest growth (2.6-fold) from 2013 to 2018, according to Cisco.

The point is that, as Internet access shifts to mobile methods, the notion of “average” access speed will become more complex. And “average” speeds could decline. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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