Network world Image credit pixaby/sumanlyBICS has published data that shows global mobile network traffic has continued to increase during 2023. It also shows little sign of slowing in 2024. The BICS network has shown a 37% increase in all types of mobile devices (760 million).  The network carries around half of the world’s roaming traffic. 5G traffic has soared, though, as new mobiles roll out to customers. The number of 5G devices used by people has risen by 155.2% (174 million). 5G is also being more widely used, with IoT devices increasing by 277.2% (2.9 million).

The substantial rise in the volume of human devices also indicates the return of tourism. The last vestiges of lockdowns are removed, and people return to travelling abroad. The figures align with research from UN Tourism. It found that international tourism ended 2023 at 88% of pre-pandemic levels, with an estimated 1.3 billion international arrivals.

There was a strong recovery in Asian markets, notably with Chinese increasing the number of international flights. In 2024, that number is set to increase further. For example, according to Xinhua, between 200,000 and 250,000 people are expected to visit Thailand during the Spring Festival this year, 3X the 2023 levels.

The sharp rise in 5G roamers tracks alongside the findings from Kaleido Intelligence (paywall). The report showed soaring data roaming activity and growth for 5G roaming services. In a previous report, it indicated that 5G would exceed 100 million in 2024. And that overall consumer and IoT roaming data usage will rise by 36% to a total of 5,000 Petabytes. That figure now seems conservative.

Mikael Schachne, Chief Revenue Officer, Enterprise at BICS. Image credit - LinkedIn
Mikael Schachne, Chief Revenue Officer, Enterprise at BICS

Mikael Schachne, Chief Revenue Officer, Enterprise at BICS, commented, “While 5G rollout has been on the slower side, the uptick we’re seeing on our networks show that non-standalone 5G is truly picking up in force and momentum now. These numbers make sense given that 5G roaming is now available in over 60 countries worldwide, though it’s important to remember this is non-standalone traffic anchored to 4G technology. Unlocking the full potential of 5G will come from more investment in standalone 5G. While 5G SA is still in its early days, BICS has made significant contributions to its advancement – for example, through realising the world’s first intercontinental live 5G SA roaming connection, and more recently between Kuwait and Thailand.”

More traffic, more devices and more kinds of devices

As the adoption of 5G increases across both the IoT industry and humans, the number of different devices will also increase by 47% in 2023. Arguably, this is not surprising as many manufacturers are ramping up production of 5G devices. And expect more at MWC this year.

Ann Heyse, Telco Solutions Manager at BICS, said, “Manufacturers have told us of the significant challenges they’ve had building 5G roaming-compatible IoT devices. It’s why most roaming devices seen on networks have historically been consumer phones. While IoT is still in its adolescence, the increase in machine roamers we see using a 5G connection is a really encouraging sign that the industry is, at long last picking up the pace.

“We know from Kaleido’s own research that revenues for IoT roaming are on track to increase by 79% in 2024 versus levels pre-2019. A lot of this stems from the many great partnerships taking place between players big and small to help proliferate IoT devices for next-gen use cases.”

Importantly, the advent of 5G is enabling 5G device manufacturers to find new use cases. These are based on the improved performance and bandwidth of 5G. BICS itself is innovating in the area. Historically, it has partnered with Microsoft and Telcofan. This was to streamline roaming in and out of private networks and ensure consistent connectivity for travelling. This year, it announced a cloud roaming service, partnering with AWS. This offers a massive reduction in latency for global travellers, opening up some significant opportunities for new use cases.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

Expect a manic Mobile World Congress next week, with new announcements around 5G and new devices. BICS itself is exhibiting and also announced a partnership with Skylo this week to connect the BICS network with Skylo’s satellite network.

5G usage is increasing, and BICS is well placed to take advantage of the explosion of devices and new services that will emerge over the coming year.

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