Smartphone subscriptions will triple and smartphone traffic will increase by a factor of 10 between the end of this year and 2019. By that time about two-thirds of the world's population will be covered by LTE, according to a report from telecom vendor Ericsson.
The third quarter was a good one for smartphone sales. Vendors shipped a total of 258.4 million smartphones, setting a new record for units shipped in a single quarter by a margin of over 20 million units, according to IDC. That will help the total number of smartphone subscriptions reach 1.9 billion at the end of the year, according the latest edition of Ericsson's Mobility Report.
However, there is room for growth in many parts of the world. That's because even though smartphones accounted for about 55% of all mobile phones sold during the third quarter, they account for only between 25% and 30% of all mobile subscriptions, Ericsson said.
By 2016 the number of smartphone subscriptions will finally surpass those for basic phones, and by 2019 they will hit 5.6 billion out of a total of 9.3 billion.
The smartphone growth won't come from Europe and North America, but regions such as Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, as the availability of cheaper smartphones will allow people in these parts of the world to trade in their more basic phones.
The growing popularity of smartphones across the world will help drive the shift from 3G to LTE in North America and Western Europe and from GSM and Edge to 3G in many other parts of the world. Japan, South Korea and North America are leading the way when it comes to LTE penetration. For example, LTE's share of subscriptions in North America will grow from about 20% this year to 85% in 2019, according to Ericsson.
Operators in Western Europe have been slower to adopt LTE, thanks in part to well-developed 3G networks. But subscribers in this part of the world will also start switching to 4G, and 55% of subscriptions will use LTE by 2019.
The period between now and 2019 will also see a growing use of LTE-Advanced, which enables higher data speeds by using chunks of spectrum in different bands at the same time. But, at this point, Ericsson isn't breaking out numbers for how many will use it.
The growing popularity smartphones and other mobile devices will also result in a continued traffic volume growth. A compound annual growth rate of around 45% for data traffic is expected between 2013 and 2019 or by a factor of 10 during the whole period, mainly driven by video. Per active subscription that equals a growth from 600MB to 2.2GB per month, Ericsson said.