Feature Article

December 30, 2013

Leading Vendors, Analysts Offer a View of Wireless in 2013 and Beyond

Wireless in 2013 continued its ascent, and the number of wirelessly connected devices and people is expected to climb in the year ahead.

At the end of 2013 there were more than 2 billion smartphones, 300 million tablets, and one billion portable PCs in use globally, according to Deloitte’s Global Mobile Consumer Survey. Deloitte estimates there were one billion smartphones sold last year, up from 750 million in 2012.

That doesn’t even include the quickly growing category known as the Internet of Things. This space, which excludes PCs, tablets and smartphones, will grow to 26 billion units installed in 2020, representing an almost 30-fold increase from 0.9 billion in 2009, according to Gartner Inc., which expects IoT to generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion, mostly in services, in 2020.

"The growth in IoT will far exceed that of other connected devices,” said Peter Middleton, research director at Gartner. “By 2020, the number of smartphones tablets and PCs in use will reach about 7.3 billion units. In contrast, the IoT will have expanded at a much faster rate, resulting in a population of about 26 billion units at that time." 

That said, it comes as no surprise that mobile data traffic continues to grow at a breakneck pace. Video is the largest and fastest growing mobile data traffic segment, and it’s expected to increase by 55 percent annually until the end of 2019. And we can expect mobile data traffic to grow by a multiple of 10 between 2013 and 2019, according to Ericsson Mobility Report issued November 2013.

GSM/EDGE  only represents the largest share of mobile subscriptions today, says Ericsson, which adds that’s starting to decline in developed markets as they move to more advanced technologies.

“Despite this,” Ericsson goes on to report, “GSM/EDGE will continue to represent a large share of total mobile subscriptions. This is because new, less affluent users entering networks in growing markets will likely choose a low-cost mobile phone and subscription. In addition, it takes time for the installed base of phones to be upgraded. GSM/EDGE networks will also continue to be important in complementing WCDMA/HSPA and LTE coverage.”

As for LTE, networks and subscriptions based on this new, 4G technology continue to be turned up at a very respectable pace. There were 222 commercial LTE networks in operation in 83 countries in the third quarter of 2013, according to Ericsson. LTE subscriptions globally hit 150 million in the third quarter, and forecasts indicate LTE subscription will reach around 2.6 billion in 2019. At the end of October 2013, 22 wireless carriers had launched LTE networks, with 18 service launches in the last two months and 38 more expected by end of 2013, according to Deloitte, which said about 59 percent of the consumers it surveyed indicated they want to update to LTE in the next 12 months.

Some markets are very far advanced in terms of LTE and some are not, but LTE is very prevalent in the U.S., says Jim Guillet, vice president of wireless marketing at Alcatel Lucent. In fact, he notes, Verizon just celebrated its three-year anniversary of being to first to launch with LTE. At this point, Guillet adds, the LTE story in the U.S. market is about one-upmanship among AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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