If you think mobile data use is high now, here's what you'll chew through by 2021

More smartphones, video, and faster networks will lead to a massive rise in mobile data consumption in the next five years, a new Ericsson report suggests.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Monthly mobile data consumption is projected to reach 22GB by 2021 in North America.

Image: Ericsson

In five years, North Americans will consume 22GB of data per month, mostly on their smartphones, according to telecoms equipment maker Ericsson.

The company is predicting a 10-fold increase in mobile data consumption across the globe by 2021, led by North American smartphone owners, whose monthly traffic per device will jump from 3.7GB in 2015 to 22GB in 2021, according to Ericsson's latest Mobility Report.

Western Europe won't be far behind, with traffic from each smartphone climbing from 1.9GB per month to 18GB per month over the period. People in Central Europe are expected to use 11GB per month, while those in the Asia Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East and Africa regions are expected to go through between 6GB and 7GB per month.

While Europeans and North Americans will consume the most data per smartphone, the Asia Pacific region is expected to use the most mobile data overall due to its larger population.

Ericsson estimates that China alone will add 210 million new mobile subscriptions by 2021, with mobile data traffic in the region expected to rise from 2.1 exabytes per month today to 20 exabytes per month by 2021.

Ericsson pegs most of the growth in mobile data consumption on video, which it forecasts will account for 70 percent of mobile data by 2021. That figure includes video displayed on social network sites.

The firm notes that YouTube still takes the lion's share of video traffic, accounting for between 50 to 70 percent of total video traffic, whereas Netflix accounts for between 10 and 20 percent on mobile video. Ericsson's measurements exclude wi-fi traffic.

Despite smartphones reaching saturation in many parts of the world, Ericsson doesn't expect smartphone subscriptions to overtake basic phone subscriptions until the third quarter this year.

The company estimates there were 3.2 billion smartphone subscriptions in 2015 and is forecasting 6.3 billion smartphone subscriptions in 2021, by which time 4.3 billion of the devices should be on an LTE connection. It also forecasts that 5G, which is set to be deployed commercially in 2020, will have 150 million subscribers by 2021.

The other major growth area is IoT. Ericsson expects the number of connected objects, such as internet-enabled devices found in cars, smart meters, and consumer products, will surpass mobile devices by 2018.

By 2021, it expects there will be 16 billion IoT devices, though only 1.5 billion will be connected to a mobile network.

Read more

Editorial standards