New research has forecast that WiFi networks will carry almost 60% of smartphone and tablet data traffic by 2019, reaching over 115 000 Petabytes (Pb) by 2019, compared to under 30 000Pb this year – representing an almost four-fold increase.

The new research, Mobile Data Offload & Onload: WiFi, Small Cell & Networks Strategies 2015-2019, found that mobile data offload – data migration from a mobile network to a WiFi network – offers several key benefits to industry stakeholders. Offload not only addresses the issue of patchy coverage, but also has the potential for the creation of new services such as VoWiFi (WiFi Calling) and to increase the usage of existing 3G/4G services.

However, the research cautioned that WiFi offload brings challenges to Operators of effective deployment and ROI (return on investment). “Operators need to deploy own WiFi zones in problematic areas or partner with WiFi hotspot operators and aggregators such as iPass and Boingo,” says research author Nitin Bhas.

Additionally, operators are also converting residential customers to community hotspot providers, especially in the US. According to WiFi service provider iPass, there were nearly 40-million community hotspots in 2014 and this is expected to more than double this year to nearly 90-million.

Other global mobile data traffic highlights include:
* Global mobile data traffic generated from devices including smartphones, feature phones and tablets, is forecast to exceed 197 000Pb in 2019.
* Juniper estimates global smartphone data consumption to be nearly twice the amount of tablet traffic in 2015.
* Developing markets such as the Indian Subcontinent are forecast to witness higher growth rates and increased market share of the total mobile data traffic over the next five years; with operators in India already witnessing close to 100% year-on-year growth in data usage.
* North America and West Europe will together account for over 50% of the global mobile data being offloaded in 2019.