Broadband Mobile Subscriptions Rise 40% in Past Year

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The number of mobile subscriptions worldwide now tops 6.6 billion, not far from one subscription for every one of the estimated 7.15 billion people now living on earth. Because a single user may have more than one subscription, the number of subscribers is lower, around 4.5 billion. That’s still a very big 63% of the total global population.

Smartphones accounted for about 55% of all new devices sold globally in the third quarter of 2013, and broadband subscriptions grew at a rate of 40% in the last 12 months. The data was released Monday by Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) in the November edition of its Mobility Report.

China accounted for about 30 million new mobile subscriptions in the third quarter, while the nations of Africa accounted for 25 million and the Asia Pacific region added 24 million. North America added just 1 million new mobile subscriptions in the quarter.

Ericsson estimates that mobile subscriptions will reach 9.3 billion by the end of 2019 and broadband subscriptions will account for about 8 billion of those, up 4X from a current total of around 2 billion. Voice traffic on mobile networks has remained relatively steady, but mobile data traffic, which averaged about 600 megabytes per subscription in 2013, is expected to more than triple to 2.2 gigabytes by 2019. Smartphone traffic on mobile networks is expected to grow by an order of magnitude between 2013 and 2019.

The largest growth will come from video transmission, which accounts for about 35% of network traffic today and will rise to more than 50% by 2019. Social networking apps and web browsing each drive about 10% of traffic today and that percentage is expected to remain the same in 2019.

Another interesting data point in the Ericsson survey is that playing games is the third-most popular smartphone activity, behind social networking and entertainment. Gaming has begun to create more demand for higher network speeds as multi-player games and video streaming are incorporated more into mobile games.

About 50% of mobile network traffic is generated by smartphones, but there are large regional differences according to Ericsson. In Europe, for example, laptops generate about 80% of data traffic while in North America smartphones dominate.

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