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Spectrum policymakers need to keep a close eye on mobile data growth

"Mobile data usage set to explode in the next ten years, says x."

| Jonathan Watson

We have all grown used to headlines like this over the last 15 years or so. Data consumption has indeed grown significantly for well over a decade and continues to increase every year—on mobile networks, Wi-Fi networks and fixed-line connections.

This growth, frequently referred to as “exponential”, has often been highlighted by the mobile industry at ITU level as one reason for allocating more spectrum for IMT (International Mobile Telecommunications).

However, since about 2019, the rate of growth year-on-year has been slowing. There are major differences between countries and regions, but slower growth overall does seem to be the trend.

Predicting the future rate of growth is more complicated. New technologies will emerge, such as 6G and connected cars, and possibly others we don’t know about yet.

Does this mean mobile operators will continue to need more spectrum? They might; but equally, they might not if they invest enough in their networks and deploy new technologies that improve efficiency.

All of this feeds into the decisions spectrum policymakers will have to take in the coming years. Find out more in two new research notes on mobile data—now available to Spectrum Research Service subscribers.

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