If you think mobile subscribers complain about data limits now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

According to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, a mix of online video, broadband-intensive communications, and new applications including virtual and augmented reality are expected to push mobile data traffic in North America to 26 GB per month by 2022, from an expected current rate of 6.9 GB per month, per active smartphone, by the end of 2017.

In fact, between the end of 2016 and 2022 Canadian and U.S. smartphone traffic is expected to increase five times over, the authors behind the Stockholm, Sweden-based communications technology giant’s annual report report wrote, noting that while monthly data traffic per smartphone continues to rise across all regions studied – including Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and the Middle East and Africa – North America had the highest usage rate by far.

Courtesy Ericsson
(1 PB = 1 million GB)

Contributing to those numbers is the high number of mobile subscriptions across Canada and the U.S. – approximately 380 million today, including 310 million smartphone subscriptions – a number that is expected to grow to 430 million by 2022.

Courtesy Ericsson
(CAGR = Compound Annual Growth Rate)
(1 EB = 1 billion GB)

That number will be dwarfed, however, by the worldwide growth rate in mobile subscriptions, expected to rise from 7.6 billion today to 9 billion by 2022 – an annual rate of three per cent.

And if that number seems high, the Ericsson report reminds readers that in many countries the number of mobile subscriptions often exceeds a country’s population thanks to factors such as inactive subscriptions, multiple subscriptions optimized for different types of calls, and citizens owning multiple devices.

Globally, it said, there are 5.2 billion subscribers around the world today (out of a world population of approximately 7.5 billion), and that number is expected to reach 6.2 billion by the end of 2022 (at which point the world’s population is expected to reach 7.7 billion).

Other fascinating takeaways from the report:

  • The world added 107 million mobile subscriptions to its total in the first quarter of 2017 alone.
  • The top five countries by net additions during that period were India with 43 million, China with 24 million, Indonesia with 10 million, Pakistan with 5 million, and Nigeria with 3 million.
  • Worldwide, monthly mobile data traffic in the first quarter of 2017 grew around 12 per cent quarter-over-quarter, and around 70 per cent year-over-year.
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