Cisco sees eight-fold increase in mobile data by 2020

More mobile data will likely increase costs for IT shops

Mobile data traffic is expected to grow eight-fold in the next five years, according to a forecast by Cisco released Wednesday.

The increase will have a dramatic impact on businesses, as IT managers struggle to securely support mobile workers with wearables and other smart devices that increasingly rely on mobile video. Cisco said that smartphones alone will account for 81% of global mobile traffic by 2020.

In 2020, mobile data traffic will reach 367 exabytes, up from 44 exabytes in 2015, Cisco said. The 2020 forecast number is equivalent to 81 trillion images on MMS, or 28 daily images per person on earth for a year. It is also equivalent to 7 trillion video clips, like those on YouTube, which is more than 2.5 daily video clips per person on the planet per year.

Meanwhile, a separate survey -- also released Wednesday -- of 500 U.S.-based IT managers shows that companies already spend an average of $1,840 to support each employee's mobile device every year.

That amount is more than double what many IT managers expect to spend because it includes hidden costs like IT services and security. Redshift Research conducted the survey for Wandera, a mobile security and management company.

"Mobility has become an essential tool for enabling business, but it comes with many hidden costs," said Michael Covington, senior product manager at Wandera.

The true total cost of ownership of enterprise mobility is made up of carrier wireless network charges (48% of all costs); hardware (21%), IT resources (15%), additional services (10%) and security (6%), Wandera calculated.

Wandera CEO Eldar Tuvey said most IT shops include only the cost of a device and carrier charges, excluding other costs. (Even under a bring-your-own-device scenario, some companies reimburse workers for wireless service charges and even hardware.)

Tuvey noted that as mobile devices and associated data continue to grow, so will the costs associated with security threats. Most companies spend up to twice as much cleaning up mobile security breaches than on mobile security software itself, he said.

In the Wandera-commissioned survey, 28% of the respondents reported at least one mobile security breach in the last year. Nearly half of that total said the beach cost their companies between $40,000 and $400,000.

Cisco's forecast noted that since 2000 -- when the first camera phone was launched -- the number of mobile users has quintupled and will grow to 5.5 billion in 2020. In that year, the United Nations has projected, the global population will be 7.8 billion. Wearable devices, like smartwatches, will grow six-fold by 2020, with more than 600 million wearables in use, up from 97 million in 2015, Cisco said.

This is Cisco's 10th annual Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Forecast.

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