Trends and Growth
The mobile Internet is thoroughly dynamic –prices continue to fall, and usage and penetration continue to rise. The trend that mobile Internet penetration is rising faster than overall Internet penetration highlights the importance of the mobile Internet for users who are increasingly driving Internet growth. Likewise, the traffic generated by these users continues to increase at a faster rate than growth in users, showing that mobile Internet users are trending towards higher bandwidth usage, notably for video.
The impact of the mobile Internet is perhaps greatest in developing regions, where there are few, if any, fixed access options. Starting from low rates of adoption five years ago, growth has outpaced that of the developed regions and is forecast to continue to do so in the near future. Perhaps most strikingly, the growth rate in mobile Internet adoption is outpacing that of mobile phones after they were launched almost 20 years ago, suggesting a very optimistic outlook for mobile adoption in these regions.
Internet penetration continues to grow worldwide
The global proportion of people using the Internet rose to 38.1% of the global population in 2013, up from 23.2% in 2008, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% over the period. This represents a global base of Internet users of 2.7 billion in 2013, and the ITU predicted almost 2.9 billion users by the end of 2014, meaning
The ISOC Global Internet Maps provide insight on Internet user numbers in each country. Find out more
Proportion of individuals in a region using the Internet in the previous 12 month period. Data is based on surveys carried out by individual national statistical offices or extrapolated from information on Internet subscriptions.
Source: ITU, 2014
While usage continues to be highest in the most developed regions, for example North America where it sits at 84.4%, the increase in usage is most significant in those regions with the lowest penetration in 2008. For example Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced an annual growth rate of 23% over the period, with 17% of the population using the Internet by 2013.
In all other regions, Internet users exceed 25% of the population, including notably in the Emerging Asia Pacific region, with more than 1 billion users, over 630 mi llion of them in China alone.
The Global Internet Maps were first released to highlight the data in the first Global Internet Report, and since then have been updated and new maps have been added, a number of which relate to the topic of this report.
Mobile Internet penetration is forecast to reach at least 71% by 2019
In 2013 global 3G and 4G capable phone and mid-screen device connections reached 1.97 billion, a penetration of 28%. Global penetration is forecast to grow quickly to 71% in 2019.
Mobile Internet device penetration in the developed Asia-Pacific region already exceeds 100%, indicating that many have multiple subscriptions, while in North America, Western Europe and Central and Latin America it is expected to rise above 100% by 2017. In Central and Eastern Europe a level of 98% is forecast by 2019.
In developing regions, penetration is significantly lower, but individuals or households may share access to devices. In addition, growth rates are forecast to outpace developed regions. Of particular note is the forecast growth rate of mobile Internet penetration in Central and Latin America, where an annual growth rate of 23% is expected.
Mobile Internet device penetration considers the number of mobile Internet devices in a region divided by the population. Our data for mobile Internet access devices includes 3G and 4G capable phones as well as mid-screen device connections, such as via tablets, but excludes 2.5G mobile Internet devices, meaning that it may slightly underestimate the penetration level.
Source: Analysys Mason, 2015
Data traffic from mobile Internet devices is forecast to grow rapidly
Mobile data traffic is forecast to grow rapidly across all geographies, at a faster rate than that of mobile connections. This is due to significant increases in mobile traffic per device. While globally traffic will grow at a CAGR of 52% out to 2019, countries in which mobile Internet is already well entrenched will experience slower overall traffic growth than those in regions in which it is less developed, such as the emerging Asia Pacific where the growth rate is expected to be 72%.
Total annual data traffic originating from mobile Internet devices, 3G and 4G handsets and mid-screen devices.
Source: Analysys Mason, 2015
Data traffic on the average mobile Internet device is forecast to more than treble between 2014 and 2019
Mobile Internet traffic is not just growing because there are more users – it is also growing because each user is generating more traffic on average based on new multimedia content. This chart shows that traffic per mobile Internet device is predicted to grow significantly across all regions, with a global CAGR of 27% expected between 2014 and 2019.
While all regions are expected to experience growth rates in data traffic per device of at least roughly 25%, the difference in data traffic per connection across regions is forecast to persist. The developed regions with the most traffic per connection today will continue to have the most in the forecast future.
Monthly data traffic carried by the average mobile Internet device.
Source: Analysys Mason, 2015
The rise in popularity of relatively data heavy multimedia applications, such as YouTube, in combination with the general trend for increased usage of mobile devices for less data-heavy activities is responsible for the growth in mobile Internet traffic per connection.
The graph below shows how different applications generate increased amounts of traffic as audio, and then video, are added. Find out more