By the end of 2024, about 6% of India’s mobile subscriptions will be on 5G, says the June 2019 edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report. It also says that India had the highest average monthly data use per smartphone – 9.8 gigabytes – at the end of 2018, thanks to increasing LTE subscriptions, attractive data plans and changing video viewing habits. The report looks at the increase in the number of mobile subscriptions, data traffic, smartphone penetration and network coverage in the first quarter of 2019, and estimates likely numbers for 2024. It comes at a time when India has announced that the 5G spectrum auction will be held towards the end of the year, and suggests that  5G could be adopted faster than expected. Here are the key highlights from the report, with a focus on India and China:

Mobile subscriptions

Current

There were around 7.9 billion mobile subscriptions globally in Q1 2019, with 44 million new subscriptions added during the quarter, representing 2% year-on-year growth. GSM/EDGE-only saw a decline in subscription numbers while LTE saw an increase, but the two technologies made up the majority of mobile subscriptions in Q1 2019 globally.

  • GSM/EDGE-only subscriptions: Declined by 80 million in Q1 2019
  • LTE subscriptions: Increased by 160 million to reach 3.7 billion in Q1 2019
    • 47% of all mobile subscriptions globally were LTE in the same period.
  • In the first quarter of this year, China had the most net additions (+30 million), followed by Nigeria (+5 million) and the Philippines (+4 million).

India region (India, Nepal and Bhutan)

  • Mobile subscriptions declined by 14 million in Q1 2019, mainly due to the introduction of a minimum regular recharge amount by some large operators to tackle low-paying users and increase average revenue per user (ARPU)
  • GSM/EDGE-only remained the dominant technology during 2018, accounting for 47% of mobile subscriptions at the end of the year.
  • LTE accounted for 38% of mobile subscriptions by the end of 2018.
  • Combined, broadband technologies (3G, 4G and LTE) accounted for more than 50% of subscriptions in 2018.

Projected

  • There will be 8.8 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide by the end of 2024.
  • Smartphone subscriptions in the India region will touch 1.1 billion by 2024, growing at 11% CAGR; mobile broadband subscriptions in India are expected to grow at CAGR of 13%, from about 610 million in 2018 to 1.25 billion in the same period.
  • LTE is projected to remain the dominant mobile access technology by subscription and is projected to have nearly 5 billion subscriptions globally at the end of 2024.
  • In the India region, LTE will account for 82% of mobile subscriptions by the end of 2024.
  • There has been a slight reduction in the forecast for mobile subscriptions because the number of users with multiple SIMs has started to come down, and prepaid subscriptions have been fewer than anticipated because many markets now require all prepaid SIMs to be registered.
  • VoLTE services: The number of VoLTE subscriptions is projected to reach 5.9 billion by the end of 2024, accounting for more than 85% of combined LTE and 5G subscriptions. VoLTE technology will be the foundation for enabling 5G voice calls, SMS over IP and new types of communication services on various 5G devices.

5G subscriptions

Current

  • In Q1 2019, several markets switched to 5G following the introduction of new 5G-compatible smartphones, and as a result, 10 million 5G subscriptions are projected worldwide by the end of 2019.
  • Despite challenging 5G timelines, device suppliers are expected to be ready with band and architecture support in a range of devices during 2019.

Projected

  • There will be an estimated 1.9 billion 5G subscriptions worldwide by the end of 2024, which will account for over 20% of all mobile subscriptions.
  • In India, 5G subscriptions are expected to become available in 2022 and will represent 6% of all mobile subscriptions at the end of 2024.
  • In North East Asia, 5G subscription penetration is projected to touch 47% by the end of 2024.

Mobile traffic

Current

India region

  • India had the highest average monthly data usage per smartphone, at 9.8 gigabytes (GB) by the end of 2018. Increasing numbers of LTE subscriptions, attractive data plans and changing video viewing habits among young people drove this growth.
  • In Q1 2019, mobile data traffic grew 82% year-on-year. The high growth rate was mainly influenced by the increased number of smartphone subscriptions.

North East Asia (China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan)

  • The region had the largest share of mobile data traffic in Q1 2019.
  • Traffic per smartphone grew strongly during 2018, and the region had the second-highest monthly usage, averaging 7.1 GB. Attractive data plans, as well as innovative mobile apps and content, pushed up monthly data usage, particularly in China.

Projected

  • Total mobile data traffic is predicted to hit 131 exabytes (EB) a month by the end of 2024.
  • 5G networks will carry 35% of mobile data traffic globally and could cover up to 65% of the world’s population by the end of 2024; nearly 35% of cellular IoT connections will be broadband IoT, with 4G connecting the majority.

India

  • Total mobile data traffic per month in India is expected to increase at a CAGR of 23% from 4.6 exabytes (EB) in 2018 to 16 EB by 2024.

North East Asia

  • In 2024, total mobile data traffic in the region is estimated to reach 39 EB per month, which would be about 30% of the world’s total. China alone will add around 190 million mobile broadband subscriptions between 2018 and 2024. This growth, together with increased usage per smartphone, will drive total mobile data traffic up to 30 EB per month in China.

What will drive traffic?

Traffic growth will be driven by both the rising number of smartphone subscriptions and an increasing average data volume per subscription, fuelled primarily by more video content, and followed closely by social media use.

  • Video: Video traffic in mobile networks is forecast to grow by around 34% annually up to 2024, when it will  account for nearly 75% of mobile data traffic from about 60% in 2018.
    • Online applications, growth of video-on-demand (VoD) streaming services, and the perpetual evolution towards higher screen resolutions on smart devices will fuel this growth.
  • Social media: Social network traffic is also expected to rise 22% annually over the next 6 years. However, its relative share of traffic will decline from 11% in 2018 to around 8% in 2024, because of the stronger growth of video.

Network coverage

There is continued momentum in the build-out of LTE networks. In terms of population coverage, LTE increased by some 10% during 2018, adding potentially 750 million more people to use the technology. The largest share of this increase came in India, which has around 90% population coverage in the first quarter of this year. Global LTE population coverage was around 75% at the end of 2018 and is forecast to reach around 90% in 2024.