Experts say that the latest mobile technologies such as 5G, AR/VR and the like are pointing towards a more immersive experience on the smartphone. The latest mobility report from Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson seems to confirm this fact. Mobile traffic is expected to grow 31% between 2019 and 2025, driven by video, the report says.

“Video traffic in mobile networks is forecast to grow by around 30% annually up to 2025. It will account for nearly three-quarters of mobile data traffic, which is up from just over 60% in 2019,” the report says. Total mobile traffic per month in 2019 was 33EB (exabyte or one million GB), of which video made up 63%. In 2025, the total global mobile traffic per month is forecast to be 164EB, of which 76% would be video traffic, according to the 18th edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report. “Mobile video traffic growth is driven by the increase of embedded video in many online applications, growth of video-on-demand (VoD) streaming services in terms of both subscribers and viewing time per subscriber, and the evolution towards higher screen resolutions on smart devices. All of these factors are influenced by the increasing penetration of video-capable smart devices. Social network traffic is also expected to rise by around 20% annually over the next 6 years. However, its relative share of traffic will decline from 10% in 2019 to around 8% in 2025, because of the stronger growth of video.”

According to Ericsson, India remains the region with the highest usage per smartphone per month. “Total traffic is projected to triple, reaching 21EB per month in 2025. In the India region, the average monthly mobile data usage per smartphone continues to show robust growth, boosted by the rapid adoption of 4G. Low prices for mobile broadband services, affordable smartphones and people’s changing video viewing habits have continued to drive monthly usage growth in the region.”

The Covid-19 pandemic is but a blip in the uptake of 5G connections, according to the Swedish firm. The total number of 5G subscriptions are expected to cross 190 million by the end of the year on the back of fast uptake in China; earlier, Ericsson had said that the connections would hit 100 million. By the end of 2025, 5G connections would hit 2.8 billion (it had earlier forecast this figure to touch 2.6 billion).

And while its still some time till 5G connections are a reality in India, the company expects the technology to account for 18% of mobile subscriptions by the end of 2025 (to put it in context, the corresponding figure for North America would be 74%). “5G will represent around 18% of mobile subscriptions in India at the end of 2025,” said Patrik Cerwall, head of strategic marketing insights and executive editor of the report. In India, LTE subscriptions will increase from 550 million in 2019 to 820 million in 2025, “increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7%” with LTE connections accounting for 49% of mobile connections in 2019, the report says. This figure is expected to go up to 64% in 2025.

“Mobile broadband technologies accounted for 58% of mobile subscriptions in 2019, and this figure is predicted to reach 82% by 2025,” the report says. What’s more, the total number of mobile broadband connections would top one billion by 2025. And smartphone subscriptions, which stood at 620 million in 2019, is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9% to reach one billion in 2025, the report says.

Covid-19 impact

The report also takes a detailed look at the role of networks and digital infrastructure during the pandemic. “The spread of Covid-19 has prompted people all over the world to change their daily lives and, in many cases, work or study from home. This has led to a rapid shift of network traffic from business to residential areas,” said Fredrik Jejdling, executive vice president and head of networks, Ericsson.

While the pandemic has hit 5G uptake in some markets, this factor is outweighed by other markets (such as China) where it is accelerating. “Beyond measuring the success of 5G in subscriptions, its impact ultimately will be judged by the benefits it brings to people and enterprises,” Jejdling said. ”5G was made for innovation and this crisis has highlighted the true value of connectivity and the role it can play in restarting economies.”

Because of lockdown restrictions across the world, there were changes in the usage patterns of both fixed and mobile networks. A chunk of the demand was absorbed by fixed residential networks, which saw 20%-100% growth. Some service providers also noticed a 90% increase in voice over Wi-Fi calls. Globally, people seemed satisfied with the performance of fixed broadband at home during the crisis, while three-fourth of those surveyed felt their mobile networks performed same or better during the crisis.

In India, 71% of those surveyed were very satisfied with fixed broadband performance, while 65% said mobile broadband networks performed the same or better compared to before the pandemic. Of those surveyed, 89% of those above the age of 60 said that ICT (information communications technology) helped them stay in touch with family and friends during the crisis. And 77% parents said that ICT helped continue their children’s education from home; while 77% of those surveyed said that ICT helped them do their job.

The average time spent connected to fixed broadband went up by two hours per day, as id the average time spent connected to 4G networks. And despite fixed networks seeing most of the traffic, 65% of those surveyed in India consider mobile broadband to be as important as Wi-Fi. In fact, during the crisis, 47% in India only or most often connected using the mobile network.

The crisis also brought forth the fact that it was important for businesses to go digital. Ericsson, in a release stated that “with consumer and personal communication-centric commercial 5G networks already live around the globe, the next wave of 5G expansion will allow businesses to reap the benefits of enhanced mobility, flexibility, reliability, and security--taking IoT and industrial applications to never-before-seen levels”. According to Ericsson’s “The 5G for Business: a 2030 market compass” report, by 2030 up to $700 billion of 5G-enabled, business-to-business value could be addressed by service providers. In India, the projected value of the 5G-enabled digitalisation revenues will be approximately $17 billion by 2030.

“It is key to invest in 4G in India, to excel in 5G. Here, private networks represent a very important first step and are fundamental to building a momentum in serving a wide array of 5G-enabled use cases. Mobile technology is an unmatched connectivity foundation for the digital transformation of any industry, and any product, anywhere in the world,” said Nitin Bansal, head of network solutions, South east Asia, Oceania and India, Ericsson.

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