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Measuring the Pulse of Our Networked Society

Mark Goldberg

Ericsson has released its latest Mobility Report, providing a wealth of analysis and insights into current communications traffic and market trends.

As one of the leading mobile infrastructure providers, Ericsson has performed in-depth data traffic measurements since the earliest days of mobile broadband, leveraging its large base of live networks in all regions of the world.

The need for more spectrum and increased mobile investment is being driven by continued growth in mobile data traffic, in the order of 60% year-over-year.

Globally, there are 6.9B mobile subscriptions, 2.5B of which are mobile broadband, meaning that there is now 95% penetration — 19 mobile subscriptions for every 20 people on the planet. Ericsson acknowledged that in some cases, the count includes inactive subscriptions.

Ericsson expects 800M smartphone subscriptions to be added by the time 2014 is done. They believe there will be 2.7B smartphone subscriptions in total by year end.

In the 3rd quarter, 65% of all phones sold were smartphones. This is one of the factors driving data growth. Ericsson finds that mobile phones are actually generating twice the traffic of PCs, tablets and routers. Globally, the average data usage per subscription is just under 1GB (900MB). Ericsson expects this to grow to 3.5GB per subscription by 2020.

Video is already the largest and fastest growing application on mobile networks. Devices are evolving with larger screens, enabling higher picture quality, resulting in more video being consumed on all types of devices and in higher quantities, at home and on the move. Ericsson expects video to continue to grow — by an order of magnitude by the year 2020 — to represent 55% of all mobile data traffic.

Regional subscriptions outlook – Mobile subscriptions are continuing to grow across all regions. The increasing affordability of phones is complemented by operators' desire to optimize tariffs. They are launching services such as special sharing price plans for families, and providing multiple devices on one account. Another driver behind the trend towards multi-SIM ownership is the separation of private and business mobiles. (Source: Ericsson Mobility Report)

The Mobility Report talks about 5G in terms of Embracing a Network Society. It sets a vision for new capabilities and requirements. For example, as machines become networked, Ericsson sets an expectation for some devices to be equipped with batteries that could need to last 10 years. Although there will be tremendous growth in machine-to-machine connections, perhaps representing 50% of devices on the mobile network, Ericsson expects machine traffic to be very small — in the order of 0.1% of total traffic.

For the first time, Ericsson has released a North American regional appendix. Ericsson says that 90% of North American households have at least 3 internet connected devices; 99% of US households have at least one connected device; 97% of US households have at least one mobile phone. [The US has a lifeline program that targets low income households.] The report shows that Canada's LTE networks are delivering almost twice the speeds compared to US LTE networks, although increased demand led to slight performance declines in both markets. Continuing to invest in spectrum and "densification" is expected to provide relief.

Ericsson is working with MIT to examine mobile usage patters, overlaid with census data to provide interesting insights in demographics. There are a couple of pages in the report that show the kinds of information that can be gleaned by examining time-of-day mobile traffic, supplementing census data and empowering urban planning.

This is the seventh issue of the Ericsson Mobility Report, which shares forecast data, analysis and insight into traffic, subscriptions, and consumer behavior to provide insight into current traffic and market trends. Ericsson created a Traffic Exploration Tool to customize analysis using data from the report, filtering by region, subscription, technology, traffic, and device type.

Ericsson regularly performs traffic measurements in over 100 live networks in all major regions of the world. The Ericsson Mobility Report and Traffic Exploration Tool are valuable reference works, with information relevant for global and national research.

What differences drive the North American mobile market? How well are carriers responding to demand?

By Mark Goldberg, Telecommunications Consultant
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Related topics: Broadband, Mobile Internet, Wireless
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