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Smartphone subscriptions to surge beyond 200% by 2021 in Africa

Smartphone subscriptions to surge beyond 200% by 2021 in Africa

Smartphone subscriptions in African and Middle East markets continues to grown and will exceed 200% by the year 2021, a new report by Ericsson has shown.

The new Ericsson Mobility report says that with 3.2 billion mobile subscriptions across the globe, mobile broadband is seen as the underlying factor driving this unprecedented growth.

With Smartphones accounting  for a larger percentage of these mobile broadband devices, there will be a continued growth in smartphone subscription fueled by massive growth in markets such as the Middle East and Africa, the authors of the report say.

The mobility data reveals that by 2021 MEA is expected to have  over 730 million increase in smartphone subscription representing a 200 percent increase from the smartphone subscription in the region at Q4 2015.

”Many consumers in developing markets first experience the internet on a Smartphone, usually due to limited access to fixed broadband. It took over five years to reach the first billion Smartphone subscriptions, a milestone that was passed in 2012, and less than two years to reach the second billion”, the report states.

The Ericsson mobility report attributed mobile subscription growth in developing markets to greater device affordability which is encouraging new subscribers, whereas mobile subscription growth in mature markets is attributed largely to individuals adding more devices.

Local economic conditions also have a significant impact on the uptake of subscriptions in different regions and the growth is fueled by the strong uptake of mobile broadband subscriptions across most regions, the report further stated.

Mobile broadband subscription growth on its part is expected to be particularly strong in the Middle East and Africa due to a young and growing population, rising GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and smartphone uptake.

Several countries in the Asia Pacific region are also expected to experience a strong mobile broadband subscription uptake over the next five years, while more mature regions like North America and Europe are expected to have more moderate growth.

The report also revealed that there has been a continued strong increase in data traffic and voice traffic growth in the mid-single digits per year and the total mobile data traffic is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 45 percent.

Vital learning tools: Mobile phones on display at Ikeja Computer Village in Lagos
Vital learning tools: Mobile phones on display at Ikeja Computer Village in Lagos.

The growth in data traffic which is said to be driven both by rising number of Smartphone subscriptions, in particular for LTE smartphones, and a continued increase in average data consumption per subscriber, fueled primarily by more viewing of video content, is forecast to result in a ten-fold increase in total traffic for all devices by the end of 2021.

Data traffic grew around 10 percent quarter-on-quarter and 60 percent year-on-year, the Ericsson report revealed, noting that there are large differences in traffic levels.

These large differences in subscribers’ data consumption patterns exist between networks/operators, markets, regions and subscriber segments and also factors such as data plans, user device capabilities and network performance all impact data consumption per subscriber. Even switching to a new version of the same device could typically increase data consumption by 25–40 percent, the report adds.


Middle East and Africa are however expected to experience a 13-fold increase in mobile data traffic up to 2021, driven by a strong growth in Smartphone subscriptions and demand for data-intensive applications like video.

According to the  report, mobile phones continue to be the largest category of connected devices, but in 2018 mobile phones are expected to be surpassed by IoT (Internet of Things), which includes connected cars, machines, utility meters, remote metering and consumer electronics.

IoT devices are expected to increase at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23 percent from 2015 to 2021, driven by new use cases. This growth in the number of connected devices as stated by the report, is driven by emerging applications and business models, and supported by falling device costs.

In total, the report stated that around 28 billion connected devices are forecast by 2021, of which close to 16 billion will be related to IoT.

Elizabeth Edozie Technology Journalist @Technology Times 08077671659 elizabeth.edozie@technologytimes.ng

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