MEA mobile subscriptions to grow to 1.9b in 2019

JEDDAH – The number of mobile subscriptions in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region will grow from 1.2 billion in 2013 to 1.9 billion in 2019, while mobile penetration in the Middle East is currently at 107 percent, with 365 million mobile subscriptions, the latest Ericsson Mobility Report revealed.

By 2019, 50 percent of handset subscriptions in the Middle East and Africa will be for smartphones, which will drive data traffic growth. There is an expected 11-fold increase in data traffic in the CEMEA region (Central Europe, Middle East and Africa) between 2013 and 2019, second only to growth anticipated in the Asia Pacific region.

Ericsson’s report also revealed that there are 288 LTE networks commercially launched in 104 countries. This number continues to grow and it is expected that more than 65 percent of the world’s population will be covered by LTE in 2019.

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) transformation is now evident; for the first time, the global number of active cellular M2M devices will increase 3-4 times by 2019, from 200 million at the end of 2013. While the majority of cellular M2M devices today are still GSM-only, that is expected to shift by 2016 when 3G/4G will represent the majority of active cellular M2M subscriptions.

Teemu Salmi, Vice President and Head of Operations, Ericsson Middle East and North East Africa Region, said: “There is a phenomenal growth in the MEA region as the development of networks, economic growth and opportunities create more connectivity potential in Sub-Saharan Africa in particular, while the uptake of smart devices continues to increase in the Middle East to drive LTE figures higher. As cities around the region work progressively towards Smart City status, this will continue to build upon the level of M2M connectivity, transporting MEA’s residents into the Networked Society.”

By 2015,  subscriptions will surpass global population. Next year the total number of mobile subscriptions will exceed the world’s population. Mobile subscriptions have grown by 7 percent year-over-year, with 120 million net additions in Q1 alone. Mobile broadband subscriptions also continue to grow and will reach 7.6 billion by the end of 2019, representing more than 80 percent of total mobile subscriptions.  By 2016,  smartphones will outnumber basic mobiles.

In two years’ time, in 2016, the number of smartphone subscriptions will exceed those for basic phones and by 2019 the number of smartphone subscriptions is expected to reach 5.6 billion. In Europe, the number of smartphone subscriptions will reach about 765 million in 2019 and thereby exceed the population number.

Sixty five percent of all phones sold in Q1 2014 were smartphones. Compared to today, a smartphone user in 2019 is expected to consume almost four times the amount of mobile data per month. This contributes to the 10-fold growth prediction in mobile data traffic between 2013 and 2019.

Salmi said: “The Middle East is a market full of early-adoption consumers, who are aware of and keen to own the newest technology. This drives smartphone usage and purchasing up, which, in turn, increases data consumption. Operators across Region Middle East must be aware of the predicted increase in smartphone use, in order to create sustainable networks that are capable of handling the level of data consumption that we will see in the Networked Society of tomorrow.”

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