The rapid growth of mobile internet will continue for a few more years. However, in 2022 it will no longer be the fastest growing category. Average mobile connection speeds will continue to rise a little every year, but not as fast as they have been growing this decade. There will be a dramatic drop in the share of prepaid mobile traffic. The average cost of a mobile connection will fall more than it has. Usage and capacity growth is expected to keep pace globally. More than half of all connections will be in developing countries by 2022. Furthermore, ARPU rates for in-flight usage are higher than those on land. This means that growth rates for in-flight usage aren’t expected to keep pace with overall growth rates for internet traffic on planes.
Mobile traffic will no longer be the fastest-growing category
Mobile traffic has been the fastest growing category of internet traffic for many years and will continue to grow slower than other types of internet traffic. It will also be a smaller share of internet traffic than in recent years.
The average mobile connection speed will continue to rise a little
In 2022, the average mobile connection speed will be about five megabits per second (Mbps). This is significantly higher than current speeds but still slower than we see on fixed networks. You can expect this trend to continue over time, though slower than in recent years. As the number of connected devices increases and wireless networks become more congested, the overall increase will likely slow down somewhat as download speeds begin to plateau.
There will be a dramatic drop in the share of prepaid mobile traffic
When you think of prepaid traffic, you likely imagine a person with a flip phone who pays at the end of every month for their limited data package or voice minutes. In 2022, this will be far less common than it is today.
The reason? As handset penetration increases, so will the share of smartphone users who pay for monthly data plans rather than prepaid plans. This is because they can afford to do so: in 2022, smartphones will be cheaper than ever before, thanks to innovations like foldable screens and 5G connectivity (expected to drive down prices).
Smartphone owners are more likely than non-owners to use mobile apps and services — meaning that as more people become owners, overall usage will also increase throughout this period.
The average cost of a mobile connection will fall a little more
This trend will continue with the introduction of 5G networks and mobile users’ continued ability to enjoy unlimited data plans. In 2022, the average cost of a smartphone connection is expected to be even lower than in 2018. It’s important to note that this is only an average—some industries have already seen their costs fall dramatically while others still see them rise slowly but surely.
Average mobile connection speeds (and hence capacity) will keep growing faster than usage
The average mobile connection speed will keep growing, as will the average amount of data used per gigabyte consumed. We’ve been working toward this inflection point for a long time, and it’s great news for consumers.
However, we expect that growth in usage will not keep pace with capacity growth globally—though it does appear to be happening so far in the Americas region and other developed markets like Europe and Australia. The main reason for this is that only a tiny percentage of users are connected to 4G networks at peak hours (and even fewer have access to 5G), so there isn’t enough capacity being put into these networks. As more customers upgrade their devices and carriers expand their coverage, we expect that both usage growth rates and capacity utilization rates will increase proportionally within each region until 2022.
Usage and capacity growth will roughly keep pace with each other globally, as they have this decade
I believe this will continue to be the case in 2022, as it has been over the past few years. The growth rates of capacity and usage are roughly the same globally, a trend that has persisted since 2010.
The growth rate of capacity is higher than the growth rate of usage: from 2010-2022, mobile data traffic grew 1/3 faster than mobile subscriptions (73% vs. 30%) because higher data prices drove more users to buy larger plans with more connectivity.
More than half of mobile connections will be in developing countries
By 2022, more than half of the world’s mobile connections will be in developing countries. The fastest-growing group of users will also be from these countries, as they adopt smartphones at a rapid rate. Mobile usage is growing faster in developing countries than in developed ones—and that trend isn’t expected to change anytime soon.
In-flight mobile traffic will grow slower than total traffic
In-flight mobile traffic will grow slower than total traffic. This is because of higher ARPU rates and lower usage growth rates for in-flight usage. The average revenue per user (ARPU) is the amount each person spends on airline tickets. This number is used to calculate how much airlines should charge customers, which can be tricky since many people travel internationally and have different prices they’re willing to pay depending on what country they’re flying through and where their destination is.
For example, if an airline has one flight from Los Angeles to New York that costs $600 roundtrip and another flight from Los Angeles to London for $1,300 roundtrip, it would make sense for them not to charge over $1m per person because very few people would pay so much for a flight! However, there are some cases where you can find cheaper fares outside the U.S. Still, and these deals aren’t always available unless you’re willing to spend hours searching online or traveling abroad (dangerous!).
In ten years, PC internet traffic won’t be the fastest growing type of internet traffic
PC internet traffic won’t be the fastest growing type of internet traffic in ten years. Furthermore, mobile traffic won’t grow as much as it used to. While mobile will still be the most common type of internet traffic, it will grow more slowly than it did in previous years.
While these mobile traffic trends remain important, other innovations could affect the mobile market. For example, 5G networks will be available in many countries by 2022 and could change how people use their phones.