India added 43 mn mobile subscriptions in Q1 2017, is the second-largest consumer of data: Ericsson

The recently published Ericsson Mobility Report for Q1 2017 reveals some interesting insights into mobile phone usage and 4G penetration in our country.

Representative image

Representative image

The report uses a combination of historical data and Ericsson internal data that includes measurements made in consumer networks to come up with the data for the report. Forecasts are made based on this data and taking various user and macro economic trends into consideration, says Ericsson.

By far the most startling revelation from the report is the fact that India added a whopping 43 million mobile subscribers in Q1 2017. This is almost double that of second place China and comprises of 40 percent of the global mobile subscriptions added in that period.

Ericsson directly attributes this growth to “an attractive LTE ‘welcome offer’ by one operator, with free voice and data”. Clearly, the report is referring to the Jio ‘Welcome Offer’, which offered customers unlimited voice, 4G data and SMS facilities from September 2016 to  December 2016. The report indicates that the total mobile subscriptions in the world now stands at 7.6 billion, indicating a growth of 4 percent, year-on-year. With over 1.1 billion subscriptions, India is host to a fair portion of these subscribers. The report does point out that “subscriptions” is not the same as “subscribers”. While the number of subscriptions stands at 7.6 billion, the number of subscribers amount to 5.2 billion. Many users have multiple subscriptions.  

Mobile broadband subscriptions apparently grew by 25 percent, hitting 4.6 billion by Q1 2017. LTE subscriptions also saw massive growth and now stand at 2.1 billion, says the report. The report adds that GSM/EDGE subscriptions (2G) fell by 110 million in the same period.

Ericsson predicts that the number of mobile subscriptions will hit nine billion by 2022, five billion of which will be 4G/LTE subscriptions. 5G services are predicted to start picking up around 2020. GSM/EDGE services are expected to decline to around one billion globally in the same period.

“Greater device affordability is driving increased smartphone adoption,” states the report, indicating that there were 3.9 billion smartphone subscriptions by 2016. The report adds that 90 percent of these subscriptions are for 3G/4G networks. These subscriptions are expected to hit 6.8 billion by 2020.

In the Asia-Pacific region, which includes India, the bulk of the subscriptions (40 percent) is GSM/EDGE-only. This is expected to fall dramatically by 2022.

Another interesting insight comes from the data for mobile data consumption. The report states that data traffic grew by as much as 70 percent between 2016 and 2017, particular in Q4 2016. Video continues to be the largest data hog around, making up 50 percent of the total data consumed.

In total, Ericsson estimates that 8.8 EB of data was consumed in 2016. This is expected to grow to 71 EB by 2022. One Exabyte (EB) is 1,000 petabytes. A petabyte is equal to 1,000 terabytes. Apparently, YouTube accounts for 40-70 percent of total video traffic. When it comes to data consumption per smartphone, there’s another surprising revelation to be had. In 2015, India was consuming around 1.5 GB/month per smartphone. North America was consuming 3.7 GB/month per smartphone in the same period. Just one year later, India’s (including Nepal and Bhutan) mobile data consumption shot up to 4.1 GB/month per smartphone while North American consumption only hit 5 GB/month per smartphone. This dramatic surge now places India in second place. This figure applies to all active smartphones.

As expected, overall data consumption is the highest in the Asia-Pacific region. The data usage is not evenly distributed, however, with the report suggesting that South Korea and Japan are ahead with their LTE network coverage. Other countries in the region, including India, have a higher GSM coverage.

At 88 percent of the population, subscription penetration is actually quite good in India, but it’s still behind the global average of 102 percent. Central and Western Europe are far ahead with coverage penetration at 143 percent. Subscription penetration in China stands at 97 percent in China, 117 percent in APAC (excluding China and India). The figure is only lower in Africa, where it stands at 81 percent.

The report states that 95 percent of the population is covered by mobile networks and that mobile broadband coverage stands at 80 percent. The latter is expected to hit 95 percent coverage by 2022.

Currently, over 50 percent of the world doesn’t have internet access. Ericsson states that internet access is a “fundamental enabler for improving the quality of life” and that operators can “sustainably expand” coverage by upgrading 2G networks to newer standards.

The entire, 36-page Ericsson Mobility Report for Q1 2017 can be found here. For more information, particularly with regards to IoT, do check out the report.

Updated Date: Aug 10, 2017 15:47 PM