The amount of data carried on mobile networks around the world doubled between the fourth quarter of 2011 and the fourth quarter of 2012, infrastructure firm Ericsson has said.
Ericsson’s figures, which came on Monday as part of an interim update (PDF warning) to its Mobility Report, suggested that the growth in mobile data usage is not slowing down. Bear in mind that the figures don’t even take into account mobile usage over Wi-Fi networks (or mobile WiMax, for what that’s worth), so the real numbers will be even greater if you’re concerned with what people do on their phones, as opposed to what type of connection they use.
Between Q3 and Q4 of last year alone, total data volumes over cellular connections increased 28 percent. Mobile broadband subscriptions also grew by about 50 percent year-on-year, between the final quarters of 2011 and 2012.
Now, 2012 was the year in which LTE became reality in many parts of the world, and faster downloads and uploads will usually encourage more use. That really can’t explain all the mobile data growth, though: Ericsson reckons that the number of LTE subscriptions at the end of 2012 was 57 million – way up from 14 million at the end of 2011, but still small when you look at the bigger picture. Much of this growth has to be down to the increase in subscriptions, not just the type of connectivity they use.
Around the world, there are now 4.4 billion mobile subscribers (with 6.3 billion mobile subscriptions, as one person can have more than one phone or connected devices). That’s nine percent year-on-year growth for subscriptions.
Unsurprisingly, the really big growth in mobile subscriptions these days can be found in China, the rest of Asia-Pacific, and in Africa. During 2012, China saw 30 million new mobile subscriptions, while India saw 11 million, Bangladesh 9 million, Indonesia 8 million and Nigeria 5 million:
Regarding these emerging markets, it’s been said before but it bears repeating: for many people in such areas, their mobile phone is their first computer. The opportunities here are staggering, both for those trying to hawk their services in emerging markets, and for those in such places who themselves want to develop services for local customers and perhaps even the developed world. This trend will shape the future of the web.
It’s also worth reminding ourselves that the mobile world is still not predominantly driven by smartphones – not by a long shot. According to Ericsson’s data, smartphones account for only 15-20 percent of the global installed base for cellphones, and only 40 percent of handsets sold in 2012.