Data traffic will continue to explode over the next five years, according to a new prediction from research firm Strategy Analytics. "Data traffic has been almost doubling annually as smartphone penetration has increased and attractive, compelling media services have launched,” David MacQueen, executive director of Apps and Media at Strategy Analytics, wrote in a July 3 statement. “As developed markets mature we expect a slowdown in traffic growth to a 32 percent compound annual growth rate from 2012 onward,” he added, “but this nonetheless sees carriers forced to find novel ways to handle huge volumes of traffic which will rise from 5 exabytes of data per year to over 21 exabytes per annum by 2017.” That translates into a growth rate of more than 300 percent by 2017. Third-party apps, combined with increased mobile-device support for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products, are helping fuel that expansion. Many IT giants have produced tools (such as Microsoft’s new Windows Azure Mobile Services) for building the backend IT for mobile applications, including native SDKs and server-side software. Still others have adapted their flagship platforms (such as Salesforce CRM) for mobile use, which in turn has helped make tablets and smartphones a more palatable expense for businesses. Mobile devices have also enabled companies to capture mountains of customer data for storage and analysis—think of apps such as Google Now, which absorb user data in the name of providing more refined services, while giving their parent companies tons of information to use as they see fit (even in aggregated form). While that flood has increased the burden on those companies’ infrastructure, it’s undeniably opened the gates to new lines of business, as well as new chances for profit. But not everybody’s celebrating the growth of mobile. "More and more mobile carriers are concerned about cost effective delivery of a good mobile video experience on smartphones over 3G, 4G and WiFi,” Susan Welsh de Grimaldo, Strategy Analytics’ director of the Wireless Networks and Platforms service, wrote in a statement. “More critically, carriers are asking how to monetize this growth in video traffic to profit from major investments made in LTE and other network upgrades."   Image: Iwona Grodzka/