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Mobile devices to outnumber humans this year

Charles Arthur (via SMH and Guardian News & Media) | Feb. 8, 2013
The number of smartphones, tablets and laptops will exceed number of humans in 2013, according to a new report.

By 2017, Cisco said, the average smartphone will generate 2.7GB of data traffic a month – almost a tenfold growth from today, and one that will put enormous demands on the internet backbone.

The rapid growth in 4G connections generated a 19-fold larger amount of data traffic than a non-4G connection, Cisco said. Despite only making up 0.9 per cent of all mobile connections – mostly based in the US – 4G connections already make up 19 per cent of data traffic, and the expected rise in such connections will contribute to huge increases in data consumption.

3G-connected tablets and laptops

The number of tablets with 3G or faster connections rose from 14.4 million to 35 million, and each tablet generated 820MB per month – 2.4 times more data traffic than the average smartphone

There were 161 million 3G-connected laptops, generating seven times more data than the average smartphone – of 2.5 gigabytes per month (which itself was up from 2.3GB in 2011).

The fastest growth in device adoption over the next five years will be for tablets, Cisco said – predicting an average 46 per cent growth year on year, and data growth more than doubling, by 113 per cent annually. The next fastest growth will be in "machine to machine modules", which presently make about 5 per cent of internet-enabled devices, growing at 36 per cent annually, and seeing data traffic grow by 89 per cent compound.

Smartphones will see 20 per cent growth in numbers, it forecasts, while the data they consume will grow by 81 per cent. The majority will be "featurephones" with internet capability – typified by Nokia's Asha device, which can browse the web and send email but cannot load third-party apps (the latter being the definition of a smartphone used by research companies).

But after 2016, said Cisco, the number of featurephones in use overall will begin to drop for the first time ever as smartphones become a larger part of connectivity. "While Asia-Pacific and Middle East and Africa will still show a low single digit growth for non-smartphones, all other regions will experience a decline," the report said. "The highest decline will be experienced by North America (negative compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37 per cent) and western Europe (negative CAGR of 17 per cent)."

With smartphone penetration in the UK already at 58 per cent, and in the US at 54 per cent, the largest opportunities lie in China and Africa – where a number of companies are now pushing with their own smartphone offerings.

Growth in internet-connected devices


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