The growth in smartphone devices has now overtaken that of conventional handsets, accounting for 55 per cent of new mobile subscriptions in the first nine months of 2013. That's according to a new study by telecoms hardware maker Ericsson.
Overall globally, the Swedish multinational reckons there were 4.5 billion people subscribed to a mobile plan during the first three quarters of the year – although, for example, one person counts as two subscribers if she has two separate subscription plans, which may explain the high number.
In the third quarter of 2013 alone, Ericsson estimates that 113 million new subscriptions were logged.
Additionally, the company estimates that some 150 million people signed up for a mobile broadband plan this year, an increase of 40 per cent on the same period in 2012.
Ericsson is painting a rosy picture for mobile high-speed internet as it expects the considerable uptake to continue. The telco supplier predicts that by 2019 some 9.3 billion mobile subscriptions will be active and 5.6 billion of those will be for smartphone handsets. Today, the population of the world is 7.1 billion.
"The rapid pace of smartphone uptake has been phenomenal and is set to continue," boasted Ericsson vice-president and head of strategy Douglas Gilstrap.
"It took more than five years to reach the first billion smartphone subscriptions, but it will take less than two to hit the two billion mark."
Ericsson also forecasts mobile coverage becoming nearly ubiquitous by the end of the decade. The company expects that by 2019 at least 90 per cent of the world's population will have coverage for 3G connectivity and 65 per cent will have access to next-generation LTE networks.
<pThe growth in smartphone use will obviously ramp up bandwidth demand: the company predicts that annual data traffic will exceed 10 exabytes by 2019.
According to industry pundits, however, Ericsson's forecasts for soaring mobile traffic may be a bit too good to be true. Dean Bubley of Disruptive Analysis contends out that the Ericsson figures suggest that data consumption will remain consistent, and that new customers will maintain the same healthy appetite for data as early adopters.
"In almost all maturing sectors, the laggards & late-adopters tends to be low, casual users," Bubley noted.
"This suggests that Ericsson's forecasts are over-cooking things substantially." ®