In Ericsson’s monthly Mobility Report, the company highlighted that fact that mobile subscriptions is on the raise at an unprecedented rate, but that LTE mobile connections will reach around 2-billion people by 2018.
“LTE is currently being deployed and built-out in all regions and will reach around 2 billion subscriptions in 2018. These subscriptions will represent the high-end share of the total subscriber base by 2018. Rapid migration to more advanced technologies in developed countries means global GSM/EDGE-only subscription numbers will decline after 2012-2013,” the company said.
The company explained that around 50% of all mobile devices sold were smartphones, highlighting a trend that users are gravitating towards more technologically-advanced devices.
“The number of mobile subscriptions worldwide has grown approximately 8 percent year-on-year during Q1 2013. The number of mobile broadband subscriptions grew even faster over this period at a rate of 45 percent year-on-year, reaching around 1.7 billion. The amount of data usage per subscription also continued to grow steadily. About 50 percent of all mobile phones sold in Q1 2013 were smartphones.”
But that trend isn’t exactly true for Africa and the Middle East. “In 2018 almost all handsets in Western Europe and North America will be smartphones, compared to 40-50 percent of handset subscriptions in the Middle East and Africa and Asia Pacific regions.”
Ericsson also stated that last year the Middle East and Africa predominantly made use of GSM/EDGE for mobile connections, and that trend won’t change by 2018.
The Middle East and Africa region was dominated by GSM/EDGE in 2012. By 2018 it will have the largest share of GSM/EDGE, driven by demand for low cost phones. The region is diverse, so there will be large differences between developed and less developed areas.”
The company also explored mobile coverage and downlink speeds, as found that Africa isn’t the lowest ranked continent in terms of mobile connection speeds. While 31% of North America had internet speeds of greater than 10Mbps, only 7% had the same in Africa. But that’s lower than the 5% of Central & Eastern Europe and Latin America.
Africa was also in the middle when it came to internet speeds of 1Mbps, as 58% had such a connections, while Central & Eastern Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America all had less. Based on Ericsson’s analysis of Speedtest.net results, 90% of Africa had a 0.1Mbps connection.
“Using data from Speedtest for the month of March 2013, it details the percentage of measurements with a given downlink throughput or greater. The statistics come from all radio access technologies except WiFi. It shows that most smartphone users experience sufficient network performance for voice, basic web browsing, messaging and email. However, there is a need for significantly more app coverage to run some of the more demanding apps, especially those that involve streaming or real-time video,” it said.
However, the company also cautioned that while the bandwidth might be available, in many cases the handset is not providing the user with the best experience.
The device may be a factor limiting performance. A smartphone that supports up to 7.2 Mbps will not enable the user to experience the higher speeds available on today’s HSPA networks. A device without LTE support cannot connect to a 4G network, regardless of the technology’s coverage build-out. On the other hand, devices are replaced at a very fast rate.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor