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A Transformational Decade for Mobility


In the past decade, mobile data traffic has increased nearly 300-fold. Ericsson has released the special 10-year edition of its Ericsson Mobility Report, and the insights suggest the past decade has been transformational for mobile technology. Will the next 5-10 years see transformation on the same scale as the past decade did? Here’s a slice of what the report had to say about the past and the future.

In the special November edition of its Mobility Report, Ericsson says compared to 2011, about 2 billion more people have mobile phones, 5.5 billion more people use smartphones, and mobile networks carry about 300 times more data traffic. Network speeds have increased by hundreds of times, and there are now tens of thousands of mobile devices on the market. In fact, Ericsson says 4G subscriptions have increased from 9 million to a projected 4.7 billion by the end of this year. However, 5G is set to overtake 4G and become the dominant mobile access technology in terms of subscriptions by 2027, the report predicts. 4G subscriptions are expected to peak at the end of this year and then decline as users migrate to 5G.

By the end of 2021, Ericsson says there will be more than 660 million 5G subscriptions. But 5G is about to explode. By the end of 2027, Ericsson suggests there will be 4.4 billion 5G subscriptions. 5G will account for 90% of North American mobile subscriptions and about half of all mobile subscriptions globally by that time. Based on the report’s findings, 5G is set to become the fastest deployed generation of mobile technology so far, reaching the 1-billion-subscriber mark more than two years faster than 4G did.

The nature of mobile connections is evolving, and Ericsson’s data suggests 4G/5G has surpassed 2G/3G as the segment that connects the largest share of IoT (Internet of Things) applications. The company expects 4G/5G to account for almost half (47%) of all cellular IoT connections by the end of 2021—versus 37% for 2G/3G. NB-IoT and Cat-M will eventually overtake broadband IoT (4G/5G), according to the Mobility Report, making up more than half (51%) of cellular IoT connections by 2027.

5G Americas’ latest whitepaper complements Ericsson’s report by considering mobile communications trends between now and 2030. The whitepaper examines several new and extended use cases for mobile communications technologies, like XR (extended reality) services, which include VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality), and MR (mixed reality). Other trends include Industry 4.0 and the use of digital twins in IoT use cases such as health monitoring and smart city planning. During this decade, 5G Americas expects to see 5G systems making a difference in verticals like agriculture, transportation/automotive, healthcare, manufacturing, and smart cities, among others.

In agriculture, next-generation wireless capabilities expected by the end of this decade (e.g., “6G”) will enhance the ability to leverage cyber-physical systems for “precision crops” and “precision livestock”. In transportation, this decade will see the advancement of AVs (autonomous vehicles), V2X (vehicle-to-everything) systems, and more. Remote care will benefit from next-gen wireless technologies, as will first responders and emergency services—all of which may require the ability to move massive amounts of data in dense networks, while also requiring extremely low latency.

As the industry begins to look toward the next chapter in wireless communications technologies, it seems that the next decade may indeed be as transformational as the past decade was. History suggests innovation will never cease to make future machines and systems faster and smarter than they were in the past.

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