March 31, 2011 at 3:31 PM ET
By 2015, the amount of mobile data traffic generated by phones and tablets will exceed 14,000 petabytes, or the equivalent of 18 billion movie downloads, or 3 trillion music tracks.
That's according to the recent "Mobile Data Offload & Onload Report" from Juniper Research, which says despite the efforts to offload data, "migration of data traffic from fixed to mobile will exacerbate the strains on the cellular network." Which cellular network? Any network, basically.
Confused? Trying to wrap your head around 14,000 petabytes is tough. But one petabyte — and maybe it should be called a "pigabyte" — is equal to 1,024 terabytes. Some of you who have moved to newer computers in recent years find yourselves with terabyte-sized hard drives of 1- and 2 TB, and some consumer-level, external data storage drives can hold more than 5 TB.
"A petabyte, which was once thought to be an absurdly large amount of data, is currently not an uncommon amount of aggregate storage in the IT departments of enterprise and large entertainment companies," notes Mix magazine, for those in the recording and sound production technology business.
Those bytes can add up quickly. As Rosa Golijan noted recently, an average song is about 5 megabytes, and an average movie about 750 megabytes.
"It is important for network operators to be cognizant of the net impact that both offload and onload have on the total data traffic through the network," said Nitan Bhas, the author of Juniper's report.
One solution, Bhas says: Femtocells, those little cellular base stations that look like cable or DSL modems and can offload data from the network. Of course, it comes at an extra monthly cost to customers.
"Although currently Wi-Fi accounts for over 90 percent of the traffic offloaded, femtocells will account for a steadily increasing proportion ... and both will contribute to be a flexible solution that will co-exist and provide a ‘big-win’ opportunity for the (network) operators," writes Bhas.
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