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LTE, smartphones & video are adding up to a mobile data boom

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We all must love watching video on the go, or else why would Ericsson say that video traffic is growing on the mobile networks by 60 percent annually. Ericsson, which released a new mobility report this morning, says that we will continue to see this trend as more people start to use smartphones and use them for everything.


Of course, they would say that — more video over LTE is good for the carriers. It lines their pockets and it puts strain on the networks, which means they buy more gear from Ericsson. Okay, with that caveat out there, let us look at some of the salient data points from Ericsson’s report:

  • Total global smartphone subscriptions hit the 1.2 billion mark in 2012. We will see 4.5 billion smartphone subscriptions by the end of 2018.
  • Smartphones accounted for around half of all mobile-phone sales in Q1 2013, compared with roughly 40 percent for the whole of 2012.
  • So it is no surprise that mobile-broadband subscriptions are growing really fast — during the the first three months of 2013, they grew 45 percent faster than the same period in 2012 and now stand at around 1.7 billion.
  • More smartphones means more demand for data, ergo, data traffic volumes doubled between Q1 2012 and Q1 2013. Data traffic growth between Q4 2012 and Q1 2013 was 19 percent. Ericsson forecasts that the data traffic on mobile networks will grow 12-fold by 2018.
  • During 2013, overall mobile data traffic is expected to continue the trend of doubling each year.
  • Of course, a lot of this growth will come as a result of faster networks. Ericsson expects 60 percent of the world’s population to be covered by LTE in 2018.
  • Across the world 20 million new LTE subscriptions were added in Q1 2013.
  • In North America, driven by the U.S., LTE will account for majority of subscriptions in the region in 2016, growing to around 70 percent in 2018.
  • In comparison, by 2018, LTE will penetrate around 35 percent of the subscriptions base in Western Europe.
  • LTE subscriptions are expected to exceed 1 billion in 2017.
  • So what do we with all that speed? Spend more time on social networking: an average of up to 85 minutes per day in some networks. Looks like that Facebook(s fb) addiction of ours is going to become super expensive!
  • And we don’t really spend that much time talking on the phone. Voice traffic growth between Q1 2012 and Q1 2013 was 4 percent. Ouch!
  • Ericsson says that web browsing and social networking will each constitute around 10 percent of the total data traffic volume in 2018.
  • Of course, we watch video — a lot of it.  According to Ericsson, the video traffic on mobile networks grew by 60 percent annually.
  • On some networks, video consumption is on average 2.6GB per subscription per month. That should make the network operators break into evil grins — more of our money into their pockets.
  • Of course, worried about its carrier overlords, Ericsson makes no mention of over-the-air communication apps in this report.

What Do We Do On Mobile Networks?

Now for more details about the mobile world at large:

  • Global mobile penetration was at 90 percent in first quarter of 2013 and mobile subscriptions now total around 6.4 billion. However, the actual number of subscribers is around 4.5 billion, since many people have multiple subscriptions.
  • China alone accounted for around 25 percent of net additions, adding around 30 million subscriptions during first quarter of 2013.
  • India added over 10 million, as did Indonesia. Brazil and Nigeria both added over 5 million subscriptions during the first quarter.


We will parse some of the data in separate posts later.

3 Responses to “LTE, smartphones & video are adding up to a mobile data boom”

  1. Paul Jardine

    Om, the carriers are only going to make money on Video by consuming all the bundled allowance. If people are on unlimited plans, operators will make nothing (i.e. no marginal income, just the fixed plan cost, though people may be more motivated to buy expensive unlimited plans if they watch a lot of video).
    I read somewhere that Youtube was consuming some huge percentage of all data usage on mobile, which makes me wonder how sustainable the current model is, with Youtube starting to get a lot more ad revenue. Is there a need for Youtube-specific (or any other video provider) backhaul directly to the base-stations? You can bet that Google is already thinking about these things, even if the operators aren’t!

  2. I could have told you this three years ago OM – why do you think I’m such a stubborn proponent of the unlimited data plan? It’s beyond obvious that that capped data plans being imposed by carriers in the U.S. today are obsolete.

    Wake me up when carriers move to either metered billing plans or speed-based pricing! There’s no reason (other than corporate greed) why carriers cannot charge a flat $2/GB for LTE service or charge a flat $50/month for a 8800kbps connection without milking users for overage fees and without imposing a pathetic data cap. There’s no way I’m paying $300+/month to Verizon for it’s 50GB data plan, but I’m also not going to shell out $200 for the latest smartphone only to get a week’s worth of fun out of my data allowance.

  3. it will be interesting to see how Asian countries will grow in next few years. modern communication is perfect fit for these regions than anywhere else in the world.