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Dueling Data: Cisco and Ericsson Head-to-Head

Posted by Colin Dixon  
Ericsson released mobile data usage and forecast data in the Mobility Report for June 2013 this week. One of the many interesting facts the company revealed was that there were 1.2B smartphone subscriptions at the end of 2012 and the number is expected to grow to 4.5B by year-end 2018. As well, fast mobile data LTE networks will reach 60% of the world’s population by 2018. However, as I looked through the data I realized that Ericsson was covering some of the same ground that Cisco forecast in the latest Visual Networking Index. So, I thought I would compare the two to see if there is any consensus between them.

A good place to start is with fixed network IP traffic. Here both companies agree very closely on 2012 totals and 2013 estimates. Ericsson forecast traffic at 30 exabytes/month* in 2012 and 40 in 2013. Cisco reported 31.3 exabytes a month in 2012 and forecast 39.3 in 2013. However, their forecast for 2017 differs by a 35% margin: Ericsson forecasts 110 exabytes/month where Cisco says 82 exabytes/month.

Both Cisco and Ericsson forecast global mobile data traffic. This time both companies forecast monthly traffic in 2017 within 10% of each other: Cisco says traffic will be 9.1 exabytes/month and Ericsson about 10 exabytes/month. However, for 2012 and 2013 the companies differ sharply. Ericsson says mobile IP traffic last year was 1200 petabytes/month while Cisco says it was almost half that, 684 petabytes. For 2013, the difference narrows significantly to 2000 petabytes/mon (Ericsson) and 1239 petabytes/mon (Cisco.)

The last area I compared was mobile video. Here again, the companies agreed closely in their forecasts for 2017: Cisco forecast 4749 petabytes/mon while Ericsson said 4700 petabytes/mon. There were sharp differences in 2012 and 2013, however. In 2012, Cisco thinks mobile networks were driving 193 petabytes/mon of video bandwidth while Ericsson put the number at twice that. In 2013, Cisco estimates the amount of mobile video bandwidth at 450 petabytes a month while Ericsson says 800.

What can we learn from all this? Both companies agree that mobile data bandwidth is small and will remain small when compared with fixed network traffic. In 2017, both companies say that mobile traffic will be about 10% of fixed network. At least through 2017, this seems to indicate that there will not be a large number of people that dump broadband to rely solely on fast LTE mobile networks. This is likely due to two related factors: pricing of mobile data will remain significantly higher than fixed data plans and data caps in mobile will remain much, much lower than fixed broadband plans.

On the subject of mobile video consumption both companies are broadly in agreement. Video is driving the consumption of bandwidth on both fixed and mobile networks and both expect that to intensify through 2017.

Why it matters

Fixed network consumption of video (either wired or through wireless broadband routers) will likely be 10 times greater than mobile video consumption through 2017.

Despite less frequent usage of video on mobile networks, it remains an important trend which demands the attention of video providers

*Ericsson did not provide data tables for much of the data and so I have estimated the values from the graphs provided. This might introduce a 10-15% error in the values I give.

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