More Mobile Phones Than People: Ericsson Study Predicts Growth In Mobile Subscriptions

By Khurram Aziz | Nov 21, 2012 10:20 AM EST

The latest Ericsson Monthly Report predicts that the number of mobile phone subscriptions will overtake the world's population next year.

The report says that 600 million more subscriptions will be taken out by the end of the year due to the sharp rise in smartphone usage, taking the total to 6.6 billion. The report also noted that China accounted for nearly 40 million mobile subscriptions in the Q3 2012 alone.

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"Expectations of mobile-network quality have been elevated by the availability of smartphones and tablets that have changed the way we use the internet. Mobility is becoming an increasingly significant part of our daily lives; we always have devices within arm's reach, allowing us instant access to information, entertainment and social interaction," said Douglas Gilstrap, Ericsson's SVP and head of strategy.

By the end of last quarter, global mobile penetration reached 91 percent and the report predicts that by 2018 this will amount to 9.3 billion mobile subscriptions, reflecting an increase of around 9 percent year-on-year and 2 percent quarter-on-quarter.

Ericsson said that smartphones were largely responsible for this massive growth in the adoption of mobile technology. Devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the iPhone 5 accounted for 40 percent of all handsets sold around the world in Q3 2012.

"LTE is the fastest-developing system in the history of mobile communications in terms of buildout and uptake. LTE is currently being deployed and built out in all regions, and total subscriptions will increase from around 55m at the end of 2012 to an estimated 1.6bn in 2018," noted the report.

LTE, also known as 4G, provides superfast data connection via satellites to the new generation of smartphones, which Ericsson says is responsible for the increasing demand on mobile traffic.

Video was responsible for 25 percent of total smartphone traffic and 40 percent of total tablet traffic. The report also estimates mobile data traffic to grow 12 times between 2012 and 2018.

Ericsson compiled its report based on information taken over several years from a large base of commercial networks that together cover all regions of the world.

The report concludes that by the middle of this year, 455 million people worldwide had access to next-generation 4G networks - a number which will cover more than half the world's population within the next five years.

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