Video will consume 76% of mobile bandwidth by 2025, Ericsson predicts

Video will devour mobile data even more voraciously, a new report from Ericsson predicts—with 5G helping drive that trend.

The Ericsson Mobility Report’s November 2019 edition forecasts that video traffic will zoom by about 30% a year from its current 60% share to reach 76% by 2025. And that will happen even as the total volume of data explodes from 38 exabytes a month to 160 exabytes.

The 36-page report predicts that 5G wireless will enable and encourage much of this growth.

“More immersive media formats and applications are expected to become a significant factor contributing to mobile data traffic growth, as 5G networks will provide the performance needed for a good user experience,” it reads.

By 2025, the report predicts that 5G will have racked up 2.6 billion subscriptions, with 5G networks “covering up to 65% of the world’s population and generating 45% of the world’s total mobile data traffic.” By way of comparison, it puts LTE coverage at about 75% as of 2018, rising to more than 90% by 2025.

As examples of what kind of video applications 5G could enable, Ericsson cites such data-intensive use cases as multiple-perspective sports broadcast viewing that could eat 7 gigabytes an hour, or augmented- or virtual-reality streaming hitting 12 GB per hour.

“As soon as it works on some level of consistency, people are going to be all over that,” said Amir Ghodrati, director of market insights at the research firm App Annie.

But he added caveats about AR and VR.

“You don’t necessarily want to be on the go,” he said of VR. AR doesn’t exclude outside sensory input but won’t work for extended viewing on a phone, versus some sort of head-worn display.

What flavor of 5G shows up on a subscriber’s device could further limit their ability to binge on AR and VR. millimeterWave 5G, the fastest and most responsive sort, also suffers from severe range limits. Lower-frequency 5G service can cover more ground but also can’t deliver mmWave 5G’s gigabit speeds and sub-10-millisecond latency.

A publicist for Ericsson passed on a clarification that it expects worldwide coverage “will essentially be driven by mid- and low-band deployments.”

It’s also unclear if wireless carriers will use 5G’s greater capacity to transmit streaming video in its original quality or elect to constrain that resolution as many do today for video over LTE.

The follow-up from Ericsson: “Our forecasts on data volume assume increased bitrates from higher-quality video as well as AR and VR, but we also expect that there will be segmentation in the market.”