Mobile Phone Use Expected to Top 5.5 Billion Devices by 2021

Globally, mobile phone use will increase 7-fold, reaching 5.5 billion devices by 2021, according to the 11th annual Cisco Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast.

“Mobile is the way to go. Increasingly, more and more people are getting connected to the mobile technology and in fact, as per our latest findings, there are more mobile users than there are people with running water and bank accounts in many countries around the globe,” said Shruti Jain, senior analyst for Cisco. The world’s population is projected to reach 7.8 billion by 2021, according to United Nations’ estimates.

Mobile video is projected to substantially increase, with live video on mobile increasing 8.7-fold from 2016 to 2021, with the highest growth rate of any mobile applications category. Mobile video will represent 78% of all mobile traffic by 2021. In addition, live mobile video will grow 39-fold from 2016 to 2021. Live mobile video will represent 5% of total mobile video traffic by 2021.

“The 2021 number [for mobile video] is 122x the traffic that was generated in 2011. That’s pretty fast-paced growth,” Jain pointed out.

By 2021, Cisco projects mobile data traffic will reach the following milestones:

  • Mobile data traffic to represent 20% of total IP traffic—up from 8% of total IP traffic in 2016.
  • 1.5 mobile devices per capita. Nearly 12 billion mobile-connected devices (up from 8 billion and 1.1 per capita in 2016), including machine-to-machine (M2M) modules.
  • Mobile network connection speeds will increase threefold from 6.8 Mbps in 2016 to 20.4 Mbps by 2021.
  • M2M connections will represent 29% (3.3 billion) of total mobile connections—up from 5% (780 million) in 2016. M2M will be the fastest growing mobile connection type, as global Internet of Things (IoT) applications continue to gain traction in consumer and business environments.
  • 4G will support 58% of total mobile connections by 2021—up from 26% in 2016 and will account for 79% of total mobile data traffic.
  • The total number of smartphones will be over 50% of global devices (6.2 billion)—up from 3.6 billion in 2016.

The rise in mobile applications and mobile connectivity is pushing continued growth of 4G, with 5G to follow. Globally by 2020, 2.3 million mobile devices will use 5G, and by 2021, there will be 25 million mobile devices on 5G. This will represent .02% of all devices that will have 5G connections, but there will be more use in the US, with nearly 1% of all mobile devices using 5G.

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