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Mobile subscriptions worldwide will reach 9.3 billion by 2019, with 60 per cent (5.6 billion) of those being for smartphones, according to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report.
Smartphone subscriptions will triple between 2013 and 2019, and are forecast to exceed basic phones in 2016.
The increase in the proportion of smartphones will be driven by uptake in Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa as people exchange basic phones for smartphones, claims the Swedish network vendor.
However, the proportion of smartphones versus basic phones will vary from region to region, with smartphones accounting for nearly all handsets in Western Europe and North America by 2019 but more like 50 per cent in the Middle East and Africa.
At the end of the third quarter in 2013, smartphones made up 25-30 per cent of 6.6 billion mobile subscriptions, but accounted for 55 per cent of the 113 million new subscriptions during the period, compared to 40 per cent for the whole of 2012.
Although total subscriptions reached 6.6 billion in Q3, Ericsson said the actual number of subscribers is more like 4.5 billion, with many people having multiple subscriptions.
China saw 30 million net additions during the third quarter, accounting for 25 per cent of net additions. India followed with 10 million net additions, along with Bangladesh (six million), Indonesia (five million) and Egypt (four million).
Data traffic grew 80 per cent between Q3 2012 and Q3 2013, with mobile video traffic growing at 55 per cent each year. Video will represent 50 per cent of mobile data traffic by 2019, with social networking and web services accounting for around 10 per cent each.
In terms of networks, 90 per cent of the world’s population will be covered by 3G WCDMA/HSPA technology by 2019, with 65 per cent covered by LTE. Ericsson forecasts LTE subs will hit 2.6 billion by 2019.
North America will lead the way with 95 per cent of the population covered by LTE, and 85 per cent of mobile subs using the technology.
Around 25 million LTE subscriptions were added during Q3 2013, to bring the total to 150 million. WCDMA/HSPA saw 80 million net additions.
Ericsson noted that GSM/EDGE technology still represents the largest share of mobile subscriptions and will “continue to represent a large share of total mobile subscriptions” as less affluent users in emerging markets choose the cheapest technology.
Central and Eastern Europe topped the list for mobile penetration at the end of Q3, at 139 per cent. China had 88 per cent penetration, with India the lowest at 58 per cent. Global penetration was 92 per cent.