Mobile data usage around the world has been on the upswing for years with the proliferation of smartphones, and the trend will continue with force, according to new research by Strategy Analytics.

The things that are most driving increased data use are web browsing, video and music streaming, games, and other apps. Strategy Analytics projects that current overall data usage will jump from 5 exabytes of data per year today to more than 21 exabytes per year by 2017.

“Data traffic has been almost doubling annually as smartphone penetration has increased and attractive, compelling media services have launched,” David MacQueen, executive director for apps and media at Strategy Analytics writes. “As developed markets mature we expect a slowdown in traffic growth to a 32% compound annual growth rate from 2012 onward.”

That said, the big question at this point is not how much will traffic continue exploding, but will carriers like Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and Vodafone be able to handle all this traffic.

“This nonetheless sees carriers forced to find novel ways to handle huge volumes of traffic,” MacQueen adds.

Carriers, at the very least, are doing what they can to acquire more wireless spectrum and upgrade their 4G networks to support faster speeds and more data volume. And the battle lines are already being drawn for so-called “5G” networks that will be even more advanced.