The volume of data carried across mobile phone networks around the world has increased by 300 times over the past decade, with more generated during the third quarter of 2021 than the entirety of human history before 2016.
Ericsson’s latest mobility report attributed the dramatic but unsurprising increase to the greater availability of 4G and 5G services, noting that more than 5.5 billion smartphones had been added since 2011 – the first year it compiled such a study.
Traffic rose by 42% during the most recent three-month period, reaching approximately 78 exabytes (EB). That figure is expected to reach 370 EB by 2027 as 5G networks become mainstream.
Ericsson 5G adoption
“Mobile communication has had an incredible impact on society and business over the last ten years,” said Fredrik Jedjdling, Head of Networks at Ericsson. “When we look ahead to 2027, mobile networks will be more integral than ever to how we interact, live and work. Our latest Ericsson Mobility Report shows that the pace of change is accelerating, with technology playing a crucial role.”
The report reasserts the hypothesis that 5G will be the fastest deployed mobile generation in history, predicting there will be more than 600 million subscribers by the end of the year – up from previous estimates of 580 million. Stronger demand in China and North America, coupled with the availability of cheaper compatible handsets, has helped contribute to a net addition of 98 million 5G subscribers in Q3, compared to 48 million 4G additions.
Looking further ahead, Ericsson predicts 5G will be the dominant form of mobile connectivity, accounting for half of all connections worldwide by 2027. Meanwhile, 5G networks will cover three quarters of the world’s population by the same date.
Beyond mobile broadband, the report predicts Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) broadband connections will treble from 88 million today to around 230 million in 2027. Meanwhile, massive IoT deployments will account for more than half of all cellular IoT connections.
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.