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Global mobile data traffic expanded at 69% in 2012 and is anticipated to grow at 72% in 2013 to reach 23,000 Peta Bytes (PB), according to ABI Research (www.abiresearch.com). By 2018 total mobile data traffic will likely eclipse 131,000PB, adds the research group.
"There has been much 'doom-mongering' about this growth in mobile data traffic but mobile carriers should not panic just yet. There are indications that mobile carriers have a number of options to handle the traffic loads," says Jake Saunders, vice president and practice director for core forecasting at ABI Research.
According to the research group:
° Carriers are commercializing LTE but there are additional benefits to be gained from quickly adopting the LTE-Advanced roadmap. LTE-A’s release 10 introduces enhanced Multi-In Multi-Out antenna technology as well as interference mitigation technologies such as CoMP and eICIC. A crucial technology is Carrier Aggregation that will allow mobile operators to "chain" spectrum blocks for substantial capacity and speed gains.
° Mobile operators can optimize their network base station assets to make the best possible (re)use of their allocated spectrum. As of 1Q-2013, only a handful of mobile operators have fully engaged on a small cell strategy that incorporates Wi-Fi hotspots and small cell 4G LTE base stations. Operators that have adopted a comprehensive small cell strategy include Softbank NTT DoCoMo, SK Telecom, KT, Uplus and in the last week, Verizon Wireless.
° After speaking with various spectrum stakeholders, ABI Research estimates that the available spectrum for the mobile cellular community will increase from around 300 MHz to 1,500 MHz over the next 5-10 years. Incumbent mobile operators and equipment vendors would prefer this spectrum to be allocated on a dedicated basis but the FCC, the EC, Ofcom, and a number of additional governments are keen to evaluate cognitive radio technologies, such as white space TV, as they would boost spectrum capacity while allowing co-habiting users. At the next World Radio Congress there would be a stand-off between cellular and broadcast stake-holders.