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APAC mobile traffic to increase seven-fold by 2021: Ericsson

Data traffic, smartphone subscriptions, and LTE penetration will rise substantially over the next five years, with APAC to lead the take-up of IoT devices.

Traffic across mobile networks is expected to increase by a count of 7.5 over six years across the South-East Asia and Oceania region, according to Ericsson, which said the current 1.2GB per month usage will jump to 9GB in 2021.

According to the South East Asia and Oceania Ericsson Mobility Report for June 2016, total mobile traffic will increase from the 0.5 exabytes (EB) per month recorded in 2015 to 6EB by 2021.

"The data traffic is going to grow to 6 exabytes per month for 2021," Emilio Romeo, head of Ericsson Australia and New Zealand, said during a call with media on Thursday afternoon.

"Mobile data traffic almost doubled in 2015 already."

Mobile subscriptions, which stood at 990 million in 2015 across South-East Asia and Oceania, will climb to 1.25 billion in 2021, while smartphone subscriptions will more than double, from 340 million to 820 million over the same period.

"Smartphone subscriptions are anticipated to increase at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 15 percent, up until 2021," the report said.

"The rise of mobile broadband is attributed to a number of factors, including the affordability of smartphones and other devices, as well as the increasing popularity of data-intensive app types, such as video. Along with increased mobile broadband availability, consumers will require consistent access to a variety of online services."

LTE subscriptions are expected to surpass 100 million as of the end of this year.

"If we look at our region, 100 million LTE subscriptions will be reached by 2016. Smartphone penetration in Australia was 90 percent, we already reached 90 percent in 2015, and it will surpass the 100 percent [mark] for 2021," Romeo said.

"Half of our mobile subscriptions are already LTE."

Five percent of mobile subscriptions in the region were LTE by the end of 2015, with the number expected to grow by more than 40 percent in 2021.

"Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand are among the countries in the region that are rolling out LTE and continuing to improve coverage," Ericsson added in its report.

"Over the next five years, mobile service providers will continue to transition customers to LTE in South-East Asia and Oceania, as well as delivering new services like voice over LTE (VoLTE) and enabling LTE-Advanced features. This will provide faster and more effective connections to mobile users, especially in dense indoor environments."

Australia and Singapore are leading the region in terms of speeds and latency, although New Zealand and much of Asia were not included in the report.

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(Image: Screenshot by Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

In regards to latency, Australia is thus far the only country in South-East Asia and Oceania to have adopted the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) 700MHz band consisting of 698-806MHz, which the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) labelled "the most efficient arrangement of the 700MHz band for mobile communications services".

"Australia leads the region of network performance, offering the best cell-edge throughputs with the lowest cell-edge latencies," Romeo said.

"This is primarily due to the extent of LTE coverage with adoption of advanced features such as LTE carrier aggregation and good spectrum availability. For instance, when it comes to spectrum in this region, Australia was one of the first to deploy APT700 infrastructure and mobile services. The key advantage of APT700 is its great coverage characteristics and its excellent potential for global roaming."

The APT700 band has been taken up by 45 countries worldwide, with Ericsson recommending that others in the APAC region adopt it.

Asia-Pacific is also expected to be world-leading in the Internet of Things (IoT), primarily due to uptake in China and India, with agriculture a key factor.

"Our APAC region will definitely be leading the pack here on the growth [of IoT], especially in the take-up," Romeo said.

"IoT connected devices are expected to increase to a total of 16 billion by 2021 globally," the report added.

"Of this, Asia Pacific will be the region with the highest level of adoption, accounting for around 5 billion IoT connections.

"The release of Cat-M1 standard in March and NB IoT standard in June this year will drive growth in massive IoT in Australia, building on our extensive LTE coverage. Australia's results for low latency will support growth in critical IoT connections, such as transport applications and financial services."

IoT growth will occur most rapidly in Western Europe due to the advent of connected cars, however, with Ericsson predicting a total of 16 billion IoT devices by 2021 -- although just 1.5 billion will be connected via a mobile network.

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(Image: Screenshot by Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

According to Ericsson, the top five smartphone apps used in Australia are Google Maps, Google, Google Chrome, YouTube, and Facebook; by comparison, in Singapore, they are WhatsApp, YouTube, Google Chrome, Facebook, and Google.

Ericsson released its global Mobility Report overnight, revealing that within five years, North Americans will use 22GB of data per month within five years.

Western Europe's smartphone traffic will similarly grow from 1.9GB per month to 18GB per month between 2015 and 2021; Central Europe will use 11GB per month by 2021; and users in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East will use between 6GB and 7GB each month.

China is tipped to add 210 million new mobile subscriptions, with users getting through 20EB per month in total by 2021.