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Mobile Devices Are Driving the Cloud's Growth

Mobile devices replace the storage capacity and I/O options laptops with a host of cloud services. We first saw this when iPhone users began placing unprecedented demands on the cloud in 2009. Statistics compiled since then reveal the the amazing growth and scope of this demand. This only increases the urgency for cloud providers go green.

ICTworks wrote in March 2017, "Of the 1.2 billion people who lack basic energy access around the world, 772 million are covered by mobile networks." This means that the bases stations serving these are likely power all or in part by dirty diesel generators. The situation will get worse as coverage expands unless we have a covered effort to integrate #GreenICT into #ICT4D.


Akamai's State of the Internet for Q1 2016 reports, "The growth in data traffic is being driven both by increased smartphone subscriptions and a continued increase in average data volume per subscription, fueled primarily by increased viewing of video content. In the first quarter, data traffic grew 9.5% quarter over quarter and 60% year over year. Looking at [Q1 2011 through Q1 2016], cumulative voice-traffic growth was only 46%, while cumulative data-data growth was just under 1,600%." All this growth drives an increase in datacenter servers (below) as well as of the telecom infrastructure, itself.

The Akamai report identifies video as a big bandwidth driver this year. ..."the summer games in Brazil...are expected to be watched by more online viewers than ever before, with thousands of hours of live coverage being streamed by users around the world, consumed on connected devices large and small, from televisions down to cell phones, over both xed and mobile connections. Global average and average peak connections are now more than double those seen at the time of the England 2012 summer games. is means that these streams can be encoded at a higher bit rate, resulting in higher-quality video, and that more users have Internet connections capable of consuming these high-quality streams of their favorite events." I can attest to this trend, having just watched almost every stage of the Tour de France streaming through an app.


The Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast (2013-2018), published February 2014, offers some of the best data on these trends. "...worldwide mobile data traffic will increase nearly 11-fold over the next four years and reach an annual run rate of 190 exabytes by 2018. The projected increase in mobile traffic is partly due to continued strong growth in the number of mobile Internet connections, such as personal devices and machine-to-machine (M2M) connections, which will exceed 10 billion by 2018 and be 1.4 times greater than the world’s population...The incremental amount of traffic being added to the mobile Internet just between 2017 and 2018 is 5.1 exabytes per month, which is more than three times the estimated size of the entire mobile Internet in 2013 (1.5 exabytes per month)." The Cisco report cites as drivers more mobile users and connections, faster mobile speeds, and more mobile video. We will look at these in more detail in future updates to this post.


NetMarketShare reports that as of June 2011, Apple's iPad accounts for over 1% of all Internet browsing worldwide and over 2% in the United States. (This statistic has been misreported as the iPad accounting for over 1% of all Internet traffic.)

The Financial Times reports from Intel's May 2011 analyst day, "Paul Otellini, executive of Intel, put it succinctly…'The money is in the infrastructure.' Internet data centres and hosting are one of the fastest growing areas in the build-out of the mobile internet, he said. According to Intel’s calculations, an extra server is needed for every 600 smartphones that are sold, and for every 122 tablet computers."

Cisco's Fifth Annual VNI Forecast predicts, "The projected increase of Internet traffic between 2014 and 2015 alone is 200 exabytes, which is greater than the total amount of Internet Protocol traffic generated globally in 2010. On the verge of reaching 1 zettabyte, which is equal to a sextillion bytes, or a trillion gigabytes by 2015, global IP traffic growth is driven by four primary factors, according to Cisco. They are:

  • An increasing number of devices: The proliferation of tablets, mobile phones, connected appliances and other smart machines is driving up the demand for connectivity. By 2015, there will be nearly 15 billion network connections via devices -- including machine-to-machine -- and more than two connections for each person on earth.
  • More Internet users: By 2015, there will be nearly 3 billion Internet users --more than 40 percent of the world's projected population.
  • Faster broadband speed: The average fixed broadband speed is expected to increase four-fold, from 7 megabits per second in 2010 to 28 Mbps in 2015. The average broadband speed has already doubled within the past year from 3.5 Mbps to 7 Mbps.
  • More video: By 2015, 1 million video minutes --the equivalent of 674 days --will traverse the Internet every second."

The emerging mobile user base in Asia is a major driver. The McKinsey Quarterly reports,"…China has 233 million mobile-Internet users, or 18 percent of its total population, India has just 17 million, or less than 1 percent…If India’s latent demand is unleashed, McKinsey research forecasts that the total number of [Indian] Internet users will increase more than fivefold, to 450 million, by 2015…Total digital-content consumption will double…"

The growth in mobile devices may have one positive effect. The HTTP Archive published December 2011 statistics showing that the average bytes per web page have grown by 33% over the past year. Bigger web pages require more disk space to store and more bandwidth to transport, increasing the environmental impact of each element in the Internet's ICT infrastructure. A fatter Internet may have been acceptable to users with ever-increasing fixed-location bandwidth, but mobile users will likely favor leaner sites.

This explosive growth makes every more urgent the question, "How brown is the cloud?"

Click here for data on telecom CO2e.