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'The Internet is going mobile'

Ericsson's Sub-Saharan Africa marketing and strategy head, Shiletsi Makhofane, says SA must look into its policy framework to see how to best take up the opportunity of exploding data.

As people the world over go online, the majority of users' primary means of Internet access will be their mobile phones. This is according to the latest “Traffic and Market Report” by Ericsson, which looks at the mobile landscape for the next five years.

Ericsson's head of strategic marketing and intelligence, Patrick Cerwall, says: “The Internet is going mobile. Mobile PC and tablet subscriptions will, by 2017, be on the same level as fixed broadband subscriptions.”

The report forecasts there will be over nine billion mobile subscriptions globally by 2017 (excluding M2M); five billion of those subscriptions will be for mobile broadband.

“With an increased number of subscriptions, evolved devices and the 24/7 connectivity to use them, we expect global mobile data traffic to grow 15 times by the end of 2017.” By the same year, Ericsson predicts that 85% of the world's population will be covered by WCDMA/HSPA networks, and 50% will be covered by 4G.

While there are currently 700 million smartphones, it is predicted that by 2017 there will be over three billion – resulting in a 20-fold increase in smartphone data traffic (compared to an expected 15-fold increase in standard mobile data traffic).

Looking at the first quarter of 2012, there were 6.2 billion mobile subscriptions, 170 million net additions, with smartphones accounting for 35-40% of all new phones sold. “Only around 10-15% of the worldwide installed base of mobile subscriptions use smartphones, which means there is considerable room for further uptake,” says the report.

African potential

In Africa, there were 680 million mobile subscriptions in the first quarter, with 30 million net additions during the same period. This places the continent's overall mobile subscription penetration rate at 55%.

Ericsson's sub-Saharan Africa marketing and strategy head, Shiletsi Makhofane, says the latest report strongly correlates with a number of key trends being seen in SA and Africa. In Sub-Saharan Africa, mobile subscriptions are expected to increase by 200-250 million in the next five years.

Makhofane says the evolution from 3G to LTE is also a very important issue from a regional perspective. “We need to ensure that the latest devices manufacturers bring into the SA market are supported by mainstream infrastructure.

“We also need to look into our policy framework to see how to best take up the opportunity of exploding data. There is a big drive to leverage this to improve the quality of life for South Africans, especially in the areas of health and education.

“Good broadband coverage and access can help facilitate this and at the same time, facilitate general economic efficiency. It is widely known that there is a direct correlation between broadband growth and a country's GDP.”

Makhofane adds that there needs to be debate in SA around the taxation of devices and technologies. “Given what we've seen in this report, we need to think about the point at which taxation should be shifted in order to encourage the entry of new products and technologies and in order to fuel adoption.”

Networked society

According to Makhofane, M2M (machine-to-machine) connectivity also has great growth potential in Africa. By 2020, Ericsson predicts there will be 1.5 billion vehicles globally, three billion utility meters and a cumulative 100 billion processors shipped – each capable of processing and communicating information.

“At the forefront of adopting machine connectivity are utilities, government, transportation, healthcare and finance. Intelligent transport solutions can speed up traffic flows, reduce fuel consumption and save lives. Smart grids can lower energy consumption and enable more renewable energy sources. Remote monitoring will provide convenient access to healthcare, raise its quality and save money.

“The focus will be on improved operation and features; devices and machinery will work differently in an all-connected world. There will be a shift from asking 'do we need to connect it?' to 'what can we do differently now that it's connected?' This is the new mindset that the networked society will create,” says Ericsson.

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