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Sub-Saharan Africa expected to see 100% mobile penetration by 2021

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According to this latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, global mobile subscriptions are growing around 5 percent year-on-year. (Image Source:

Ericsson has officially unveiled its latest Mobility Report, which according to the company provides insight into the future of 5G networks, including a forecast of 150 million 5G mobile subscriptions by 2021. 5G networks, based on standards that meet ITU IMT-2020 requirements, are expected to be deployed commercially from 2020.

According to the report, South Korea, Japan, China and the US are predicted to lead with the first, and fastest, 5G subscription uptake. 5G will connect new types of devices, enabling new use cases related to the Internet of Things (IoT); the transition will open up new industries and verticals to ICT transformation.

The report also reveals a significant increase in mobile video consumption, which is driving nearly six times higher traffic volumes per smartphone in North America and Europe (2015 to 2021). With 20 new mobile broadband subscriptions activated every second, global increase in mobile subscriptions is another clear driver for data traffic growth. As of now, there are the same amount of mobile subscriptions as there are people on the planet; in 2016 we will reach the four billion mark for smartphone subscriptions alone.

According to this latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, global mobile subscriptions are growing around 5 percent year-on-year. India grew the most in terms of net additions during the quarter (+13 million), followed by China (+7 million), the US (+6 million), Myanmar (+5 million), and Nigeria (+4 million).

To accompany the main report, Ericsson will publish seven additional reports focusing on different regions.  The regional report covering Sub-Saharan Africa reveals that while total mobile subscription penetration currently sits at 80 percent, the region expects to see 100 percent mobile penetration by 2021 with over 1 billion mobile subscriptions.

Looking at Africa:

In Sub-Saharan Africa GSM/EDGE-only is still the most popular technology for mobile subscriptions. With 500 million subscriptions forecast in 2015, it still accounts for over 70 percent of total mobile subscriptions.  This is however expected to change rapidly up to 2021, when WCDMA/HSPA combined with LTE will account for almost 80 percent of subscriptions.

The regional report also reflects that while the average revenue per user (ARPU) for data has been rising, leading to a higher contribution of data revenue to total operator revenue, this does not quite offset the drop in voice ARPU.

By the end of 2021, monthly mobile data traffic in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be almost 2,200 Petabytes (PB). Between 2015 and 2021, data traffic is projected to grow 15 times in Sub-Saharan Africa, driven by an increased spread of LTE. Smartphones will account for almost 95 percent of mobile data traffic by 2021, up from close to 80 percent in 2015. Voice traffic over the same period will only marginally increase.

Fredrik Jejdling, Regional Head of Ericsson Sub-Saharan Africa, says: “In Sub-Saharan Africa, the dividends of connecting the unconnected through mobile broadband access and driving new services cannot be overlooked as it allows business and society to fulfil their potential and create a more sustainable future. For example, increased connectivity improves the prospect of financial inclusion for the 70 percent unbanked through mobile money services starting to take form across Africa. The same is true for transformation in the agriculture, healthcare and even the media industries. As we approach 100 percent mobile penetration, focus should be on ensuring that the value of ubiquitous mobile access is harnessed for the common good of all.”

Other highlights from the latest Global Ericsson Mobility Report include:

Video dominates data traffic: Global mobile data traffic is forecast to grow ten-fold, 2015 to 2021, and video is forecast to account for 70 percent of total mobile traffic in 2021. In many networks today, YouTube accounts for up to 70 percent of all video traffic, while Netflix’s share of video traffic can reach as high as 20 percent in markets where it is available.

Mainland China overtakes the US as world’s largest LTE market: By the end of 2015, Mainland China will have 350 million LTE subscriptions, – nearly 35 percent of the world’s total LTE subscriptions. The market is predicted to have 1.2 billion LTE subscriptions by 2021.

ICT powers the low-carbon economy: ICT will enable savings in energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across all other industrial sectors. The total emission reduction could be up to 10 gigatonnes of CO2e, representing about 15 percent of global GHG emissions in 2030 – more than the current carbon footprint of the US and EU combined.

New to the report is the Mobile Business Trends appendix. The appendix outlines eight trends that detail how successful mobile operators are using different ways to monetize the explosion in data consumption and growing demand for mobile services.

The Ericsson Mobility Report is one of the leading analyses of data traffic available, providing in-depth measurements from live networks spread around the globe. The report uses these measurements and analysis, together with internal forecasts and other relevant studies, to provide insights into current traffic and market trends in the Networked Society.

The Traffic Exploration Tool, which accompanies the report, can be used to create customized graphs and tables using the newly published data. The information can be filtered by region, subscription, technology, traffic and device type.

Staff Writer

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