When it comes to mobile phones, the devices may be getting smaller and thinner, but the industry is only getting bigger, with no perceptible signs of stopping any time soon. According to the Mobile Economy 2014 Report, a surge of capital investment across the globe has helped improve access and fuel increased smartphone penetration on a scale that hardly could have been predicted when the devices were initially introduced. According to the report, growth will continue to be strong around the world, as an increase of 4 million mobile broadband connections is expected to occur between now and the year 2020. Helping to fuel this massive rate of growth is an equally massive funding effort. The Mobile Economy 2014 report indicated that over the past six years, about $1 trillion worth of capital investment has poured into the mobile device industry.
During the time that investment money has been entering the market from all corners of the globe, worldwide mobile broadband connections have grown by a factor of 10. In 2008, the report states there were approximately 200 million such connections, while in 2013, there were more than 2 billion mobile broadband connections. To help sustain these connections, much of the capital investment has involved building stronger networks and enhancing infrastructure in areas struggling to keep up with demand.
In addition to improving connection strength and infrastructure in areas where mobile phone usage is already heavy, some capital investment has been used to introduce users in new regions to the technology through the expansion of network coverage areas. With improved performance and increased coverage areas driving higher demand, investment is also expected to continue to increase, and the Mobile Economy 2014 report suggests that nearly $2 trillion worth of capital investment will be put forth to help keep pace with the growth of data traffic. Indeed, it is not only the rise of subscribers that is propelling demand, but the increasing accessibility to, and popularity of, data-heavy applications and functions such as streaming music and videos that has generated this significant increase in traffic.
While the Mobile Economy report acknowledged the contributions of increased use among existing subscribers to mobile broadband connections, the report also noted that a significant amount of traffic would be due to new subscribers as well. According to the report, as many as 880 million new mobile broadband subscribers are expected to enter the market by 2020.
Helping fuel the popularity and the data traffic increase is the increased accessibility of faster connections, with 3G and 4G connections becoming a larger and larger proportion of overall subscriptions. Perhaps most impressive was the report’s prediction that by 2017, about half of the global population would be covered by an LTE network. As of 2014, only about one-fifth of the population has access to such a network.