Mobile data traffic in the Middle East and Africa is forecast to grow faster than in any other region in the world during the next five years, according to Cisco.
Data traffic carried over mobile networks is forecast to increase 14-fold in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) from 2013 to 2018, according to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast.
This follows a 107 per cent increase in the region’s mobile data traffic to 105,655 terabytes per month during 2013.
Cisco forecasts that data traffic on mobile networks will rise to 1.49 exabytes (about 1.6 billion gigabytes) per month in MEA by 2018, a compound annual growth rate of 70 per cent.
Such data traffic is equivalent to around 372 million DVDs each month or 4,105 million text messages each second.
Mobile traffic in the GCC has primarily been driven by increasing smartphone and tablet ownership, together with the continuing growth in enterprise mobility, said Hasan Sandila, a senior analyst with IDC.
Smartphone penetration across the GCC crossed the 50 per cent threshold early last year, he said.
Internet-enabled wearable devices will be a major factor in growing mobile traffic in the next five years, Cisco noted.
The number of smart wearable devices in the region, such as watches, glasses, and fitness trackers, is forecast to grow to 8 million by 2018, up from 700,000 in 2013, the company forecast.
“MEA is really coming to the fore as early, widespread adopters of the latest smartphone and wearable technology … driven by one of the most tech-receptive and youthful populations on the planet,” said Cisco’s regional sales manager Fady Younes.
The growth in mobile data traffic will be more than double that of fixed data traffic, according to Cisco.
Mobile platforms will account for 39 per cent of all data traffic by 2018, compared with just 10 per cent in 2013, the report said.
Fixed line data infrastructure is either absent or very underdeveloped across much of Africa, opening the door for mobile operators, said Matthew Reed a principal analyst with Informa.
"Mobile has been main platform for the growth of telecoms and internet services across much of the Middle East and Africa," he said. "In much of sub-Saharan Africa the mobile phone will be the primary device for data services and accessing the internet."
Such a trend was not confined to Africa, with fixed internet investment and penetration lagging behind even in GCC markets, he said.
“Even in Saudi fixed internet penetration is still relatively low, while Kuwait’s fixed market is not as developed as one would expect.”