March 18, 2019

More Than 60 Percent of the Global Population Will Start Using the Mobile Internet by 2025

5G is on track to account for 15 percent of global mobile connections by 2025, as the number of 5G network launches and compatible devices ramps up in 2019, according to a new GSMA report. Released at GSMA's MWC Barcelona 19 on Feb. 25th, The Mobile Economy 2019 reveals that a further 16 major markets worldwide will switch on commercial 5G networks this year, following on from the first 5G launches in South Korea and the United States in 2018. Authored by GSMA Intelligence, the research arm of the GSMA, this year's report presents four key findings:

5G is here: opportunity awaits

"5G is now upon us," the GSMA asserts, "bringing with it the promise of a host of exciting new services. As the boundaries between mobile and the wider digital ecosystem continue to blur, and as data monetization poses a continued challenge, many operators are moving beyond their traditional telco businesses to explore new opportunities in a fast-changing competitive landscape:

"IoT: between 2018 and 2025, the number of global IoT connections will triple to 25 billion, while global IoT revenue will quadruple to $1.1 trillion. With connectivity becoming increasingly commoditized, mobile operators are looking to expand their role in the value chain – from providing essential tools and capabilities for ecosystem partners to build IoT solutions, to becoming end-to-end IoT solution providers themselves.

"Content: the content sector is undergoing significant transformation driven by shifting consumer behavior, new players and changing content production and distribution models. To benefit from an unprecedented level of content consumption, an increasing number of telecoms operators are entering the content space or strengthening their existing content offerings, through vertical integration, partnerships with OTT video service providers or creating content themselves.

"Artificial intelligence: AI will be key to future business and digital transformation. It will drive increasingly autonomous and intelligent networks and improve customer experience through greater learning of customer behavior. Operators across the globe are growing their focus on AI, with AI-based applications including chatbots and digital assistants, network operation/planning, customer care, advertising and AI as a service.

"Devices: while their ubiquity means smartphones remain the focal point of the consumer internet economy, the range of connected devices (and therefore internet access channels) is greater than ever. In the most advanced countries, today’s digital consumers (using PCs and smartphones) will likely become tomorrow's augmented customers, adopting emerging technologies such as AI (via smart speakers) and immersive reality."

Some 700 million new mobile subscribers by 2025

As someone who aims to empower people in emerging economies through innovative, technology-based solutions, I find it encouragingly that "5.1 billion people around the world subscribed to mobile services" by the end of 2018, "accounting for 67% of the global population."

Furthermore, "Of the 710 million people expected to subscribe to mobile services for the first time over the next seven years, half will come from the Asia Pacific region and just under a quarter will come from Sub-Saharan Africa.

"Meanwhile, mobile continues to make a significant contribution to socioeconomic development around the world. In 2018, mobile technologies and services generated $3.9 trillion of economic value (4.6% of GDP) globally, a contribution that will reach $4.8 trillion (4.8% of GDP) by 2023 as countries increasingly benefit from the improvements in productivity and efficiency brought about by increased take-up of mobile services. Further ahead, 5G technologies are expected to contribute $2.2 trillion to the global economy over the next 15 years."

The report promisingly says "[t]he connectivity gap also continues to close: over the next seven years, 1.4 billion people will start using the mobile internet for the first time, bringing the total number of mobile internet subscribers globally to 5 billion by 2025 (over 60% of the population). This growth in connectivity is helping the mobile industry increase its impact across all the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and is spurring adoption of mobile-based tools and solutions (for example, in agriculture, education and healthcare) that aim to improve livelihoods in low- to middle-income countries."

4G takes the lead, while commercial 5G is now a reality

Interestingly, "4G overtook 2G to become the leading mobile technology across the world" in 2018, "with 3.4 billion connections accounting for 43% of the total (excluding licensed cellular IoT). With growth continuing apace, particularly across developing markets, 4G will soon become the dominant mobile technology, surpassing half of global mobile connections in 2019 and reaching 60% in 2023."

Enabling policies for digital advancement

"Advanced mobile networks are a critical component of the digital future," the report explains, "and governments must play their part. The mobile industry urges governments to set enabling policies for 5G and to reform regulatory frameworks no longer suited to today’s digital economy."

Infographic: GSMA Intelligence

If you work in the mobile economy, how does this report impact your business's international growth strategy?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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