Dubai: Mobile data traffic in the Middle East and Africa is expected to grow at the fastest rate in the world due to new video watching behaviours in higher resolution formats, according to Ericsson Mobility Report released on Tuesday.

Ammar Jamal Ammar, head of networks campaigns at Ericsson Middle East and Africa, said that mobile data traffic is expected to grow ninefold between 2018 2024.

“Smartphone subscriptions are projected to double, increasing penetration from 45 per cent to 70 per cent in 2024 to reach 7.2 billion globally. With increased consumption of broadband-intensive services, such as video and new immersive applications like virtual reality and augmented reality, total monthly mobile data traffic is projected to reach 17 exabytes in 2024,” he said.

Moreover, he said that 5G networks will carry 25 per cent of global mobile data traffic in 2024, which is 1.3 times more than the total traffic today.

MEA mobile data traffic
Image Credit: Gulf News

“Monthly mobile data traffic per smartphone continues to increase in all regions, driven by improved device capabilities and more affordable data plans, as well as an increase in data-intensive content,” he said.

According to the report, a smartphone is expected to consume over 21GB of data per month on average — nearly four times the amount consumed in 2018.

70%

smartphone penetration likely globally by 2024

In the region, he said that mobile data traffic per active smartphone is 2.9GB per month on average in 2018 but it is expected to grow fivefold to 15GB per month in 2024.

Saudi and Kuwait

In Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, he said that the average mobile data traffic per active smartphone is 12GB per month due to video watchers.

He also said that video currently stands out as the most significant traffic type consumed by smartphone users and the importance of video will only increase.

By the end of 2024, he said that it is projected to account for 74 per cent of traffic compared to the current average of 60 per cent.

25%

data traffic likely to be carried on 5G networks by 2024

He said that most mobile videos are streamed at low-definition (360p) and standard-definition (480p) formats respectively today due to restrictions introduced by both content and communications service providers, as well as customers selecting formats to get the most out of their data.

But, he said user behaviours are shifting with low- and standard-definition video formats being overtaken by high-definition and Full HD formats. The average resolution of a YouTube video in some LTE networks is already up to 720p.

With higher resolutions and complex formats such as 4K, 8K, 360-degree video, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) now on the horizon, he said that it is projected to change dramatically as 5G services are made available.

However, he said that use-cases driving large-scale streaming of 4K, 8K or VR to smartphones have not yet emerged.

The report said that AR has many potential applications, but industrial manufacturing and maintenance, sports events, architecture, navigation and tourism are just a few of the areas where AR is expected to have a big impact.

“Two key factors in enabling new immersive formats to go mainstream will be reductions in latency and support for more symmetrical uplink/downlink throughput — both of which are attributes of 5G,” Ammar said.

Given the rate of change in both mobile technology and video media streaming, he expects to see a continued high growth rate in smartphone traffic on mobile broadband networks in the next five years.