In a world of fast-growing mobility, Ericsson continues to quantify that growth. In the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, the company, which plays a major role in building out the networks supporting and transporting the growing amounts of mobile data, revealed that 109 million mobile subscriptions were added worldwide during the fourth quarter of 2013, bringing the total to 6.7 billion.
Below are 10 key takeaways from the report, which was released Feb. 18.
1. The number of mobile broadband subscriptions will quadruple by 2019, from today's 2 billion to 8 billion. During the same time, the amount of data sent by each smartphone could also quadruple. "That means that in 2019, over two weeks' time, 5 exabytes of information will be sent by those smartphones," said Johan Wibergh, head of Business Unit Networks at Ericsson.
How much data is 5 exabytes? A common example is that it's the equivalent of all the words ever spoken since the beginning of mankind.
2. The 4G technology Long Term Evolution (LTE) gained 40 million subscribers during the fourth quarter, reaching 200 million. But it's 3G that's the fastest-growing technology in the world today.
3. It took eight years, from March 2003 to 2012, for 3G subscriptions to reach 1 billion. The next billion 3G subscribers will be added during the next two years.
4. Between the fourth quarters of 2013 and 2014, mobile data traffic increased 70 percent. Voice traffic was largely flat—as it has been since roughly 2010.
5. China (1.3 billion) and India (1.2 billion) now each account for 20 percent of the world's 6.7 billion mobile subscriptions. Following them are Africa (802 million), India (762 million) and Latin America (705 million).
6. Likewise, the same countries contributed most aggressively to growth during the fourth quarter. India added 22 million-plus subscriptions, China added more than 21 million, the Asia-Pacific (minus China and India) added 26 million, and Africa added 17 million. By contrast, North America saw 5 million new subscriptions during the quarter and Western Europe 3 million.
7. In the Middle East and Africa today, 80 percent of all subscriptions are 2G, and so largely focused on voice and text. By 2019, Ericsson expects that 80 percent of subscriptions will be 3G or 4G, "enabling mobile broadband and Internet use for the vast population of Africa."
8. Approximately 1 billion smartphones were sold in 2013. During the fourth quarter, nearly 60 percent of all mobile devices sold were smartphones, up from 45 percent a year earlier. In total, smartphones account for 30 percent of all mobile phone subscriptions (leaving plenty of room for growth).
9. In 2013, the amount of data from smartphones began surpassing traffic from all other types of devices connected to mobile networks, including PCs, tablets and routers.
10. While there are approximately 6.7 billion mobile subscriptions, Ericsson estimates that many people have several subscriptions and there are actually around 4.5 billion subscribers. With mobile's global penetration estimated to be 92 percent, in the majority of regions, penetration exceeds 100 percent. Central and Eastern Europe lead the world, with 143 percent penetration, followed by Western Europe (127 percent) and Latin America (115 percent). In North America, penetration is 102 percent while, in China, it's 90 percent.