By 2018, there will be more IoT devices in the world than mobile phones: study


According to a recent mobility report by telecommunications company Ericsson, Internet of Things (IoT) devices (including connected cars, machines, utility meters, remote metering and consumer electronics) will be the largest category of connected devices, surpassing mobile phones. At present, mobile phones continue to be the largest category of connected devices.

Expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23 percent, IoT devices will comprise of 16 billion devices of the total 28 billion connected devices.

By the end of 2015, there were 400 million IoT devices with cellular subscriptions. Cellular IoT is expected to be the highest growth sector amongst different categories of connected devices, reaching a total of 1.5 billion devices in 2021.

For example, if your smart watch has a mobile subscription or is connected to an independent cellular network through a SIM card or smart card, it becomes a cellular IoT device. But this is a rudimentary example, with technology and used cases going much further.

Other categories include non-cellular IoT, which although is charted to grow at CAGR of 22 percent, will have the maximum share of 14.2 billion devices of the 28 billion connected devices.

Western Europe is supposed to lead the way in adding IoT connections, projected to grow 400 percent by 2021.

With cellular IoT being dependent on mobile subscriptions, the report further provides insights on its projections for Q1 2016. The report projects:


  • Mobile subscriptions is growing around three percent year-on-year globally and reached 7.4 billion in Q1 of 2016, adding close to 63 million new mobile subscriptions globally in Q1 2016.


  • India added the highest number of new mobile subscriptions, close to 21 million this quarter followed by Myanmar, Indonesia (added close to five million), and then the US and Pakistan (at three million each).


  • Mobile broadband subscriptions is also growing at 20 percent year-on-year, with Q1 2016 seeing an incremental increase of approximately 140 million.


  • World mobile data traffic grew by 60 percent between Q1 2015 and Q1 2016.


  • Between 2015 and 2021, there has been 12X growth in smartphone traffic, with the total mobile data traffic growing at a CAGR of around 45 percent.


  • Around 90 percent of the mobile data traffic will be from smartphones by the end of 2021.


  • Asia Pacific is projected to have the largest share of mobile data traffic in 2021 with China alone adding 210 million mobile subscriptions between the end of 2015 and 2021

On the other hand, North America sees the highest monthly data usage per active smartphone subscription. With the report predicting this trend to continue, monthly smartphone data usage per active subscription in North America (22 GB) will be 1.2 times that of western Europe (18 GB) and three times that of Asia Pacific (7 GB) by 2021.


  • When it comes to mobile traffic by application category, the usage of mobile videos is all set to grow by 55 percent, with social network following through by 41 percent.

In 2021, video will account for around 70 percent of mobile data traffic, with social networking due to stronger growth in the video category will decline from 15 percent market share in 2015 to around 10 percent in 2021, according to the report.

5G is here

Cellular innovation and new used cases have ushered in the wave of 5G. Enabling IoT better, the greater capacity of 5G will allow more devices to be connected to the network while needing lower energy requirements.

The report envisions South Korea, Japan, China and the US to lead the adoption of 5G subscriptions. It also says that there will be 150 million 5G subscriptions globally by the end of 2021.

The report also talks more about the growth and shift of connectivity dynamics (IoT, mobile, broadband and smartphone) globally, which can be seen in the following infographic: