Increasingly digital Europeans in work, play and social relationships

Increasingly digital Europeans in work, play and social relationships

Average household data consumption on telecommunications networks has grown steadily – and will continue to do so – across Europe. From about 5 GB/month in 2018 to 15 GB/month in 2022, to 75 GB/month in 2030, with an average growth rate of 25% for mobile, from 225 to 900 GB/month for fixed, with a average annual growth rate of 20%.

Arthur D Little, in the recently published report "The Evolution of Data growth in Europe", provides a clear and instantaneous picture of the current state of data consumption, also showing short and medium-term forecasts on the future scenarios that await us. Digital is now an indissoluble component of our society. More and more services are consumed digitally and more and more activities are done online, from work to TV. The advent of Covid-19 has greatly contributed to the introduction of technology and innovation into our homes, changing our daily behavior - just think of the surge in smart working, transactions on e-commerce sites more than doubled during the lockdown and of online television. Despite the partial post-lockdown slowdown in 2021, the medium-term trend remains on the increase and does not seem to stop. We will become increasingly digitized.

But how long do we stay in front of the screen of our smartphone? How many hours do we surf on an information page or on Youtube?

Time spent online appears to be three to four hours a day for mobile telephony (per individual) and six to ten hours a day for fixed telephony (per home, including all PC, tablet and smart TV devices).

Technology will consume more and more, the innovations of recent years are proof of this. From high definition to live sports in HD, and again from the increase in the use of video on social media to content generated by artificial intelligence.

The Report analyzes and identifies in detail the drivers of growing demand. The main ones are video and social networks, but also e-commerce, gaming, cloud services, and music streaming.

Numerous trends will continue to drive data usage. These include:

- Improved video resolution from standard definition (SD) to high definition (HD).

- 4K and 8K high resolution image quality

- Increased use of HD live sports, especially on mobile devices

- Increasing use of short videos on social networks

- The "metaversion" of use cases

- The increased use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)

- Content generated by artificial intelligence (AI).

Video continues to be the main driver of data consumption: it currently accounts for around 60%-65% of total consumption in Europe. According to Arthur D Little, its share will grow to 70%-75% by 2030, thanks to the increased penetration of higher resolution content and live streaming. The average European spends about three to four hours a day watching videos and about one hour a day is also spent watching clips on mobile phones.

In terms of data intensity, social networks follow video. We navigate there, on average, almost two hours a day. In the long run, the time users spend on different social channels will expand, even up to three or four hours a day. Social networks increasingly represent an alternative, for many, to interactions in the real world. This conception is also due to the evolution that these channels have seen over time: from the messaging of a decade ago (Facebook or Google+) we have come to the publication of images (Instagram) and videos (TikTok) or stories rich in multimedia content.

Furthermore, for now the estimate of the number of active users of the Metaverse is low, in the tens of millions. The challenge - according to the ADL report - will be to improve the latency period, which requires a review of the architecture of existing telecommunications networks.

Quantifying the expected growth of this data driven by the evolution of use cases mainly controlled by global OTTs is essential for understanding network intensity and consumption and better planning future infrastructure investments in the sector by telecommunications operators.

Elisabetta Cafforio, Principal of Arthur D. Little, co-author of the report, head of the global Competence Center dedicated to the regulation of the TLC sector (SASCAR), underlined that «the inexorable growth of data consumption, together with the development of standards (HD/4-8K/HTML5/…) and new applications (Metaverse/ AR/ VR) that require high throughput and low latency, make it essential to seek a comparison between telco operators and the large OTT players, to be defined on strategic and commercial or, alternatively, regulatory basis".

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