1.5 Billion Cellular-Connected 'Things' by 2021: Ericsson

Of the 28 billion connected devices comprising the Internet of Things by 2021, a fair number of them will transmit data over cellular networks.

The Internet of Things (IoT) will light up cellular networks over the next several years, according to a new forecast from the mobile telecommunications experts at Ericsson.

The number of machine-to-machine (M2M) and consumer electronic devices with cellular subscriptions will grow to 1.5 billion, according to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report (PDF). By contrast, 2015 is expected to yield 400 million subscriptions.

In total, Ericsson expects 28 billion connected devices to pour data onto the world's networks by 2021, 15 billion of which are of the M2M and consumer device varieties. Ericsson also predicts that both businesses and consumers will snap up faster, better-managed 5G connections.

Seeking blistering download speeds and better data management, customers will purchase 150 million 5G subscriptions by the end of 2021, states the report. A 5G subscription, as defined by Ericsson, "requires a device capable of supporting LTE Evolved or NX, connected to a 5G-enabled network, supporting new use cases."

The commercial rollout of 5G networks meeting the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) IMT-2020 standards is expected to take place in 2020. Some test networks will show up earlier in select markets.

"5G is about more than faster mobile services – it will enable new use cases related to the Internet of Things," said Rima Qureshi, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for Ericsson, in a statement. Her company is already at work on applying next-generation cellular connectivity to more efficient public transportation.

"For example, Ericsson has built a prototype testbed for applying 5G networking functions and data analytics to public transport, which can save resources, reduce congestion, and lower environmental impact," Qureshi stated. "ICT transformation will become even more common across industries as 5G moves from vision to reality in the coming years."

In total, Ericsson predicts that worldwide mobile subscriptions will grow from 7.1 billion to 9.1 billion by 2021. Smartphone and tablet monthly data traffic will skyrocket, from 1 gigabyte (GB) and 1.8 GB per month to 8.5 GB and 9.7 GB per month, respectively.

Much of that traffic will be devoted to streaming video.

"In many mobile networks today, 50–70 percent of video traffic is from YouTube. Mobile video in general is forecast to grow by around 55 percent annually through 2021, when it will account for around 70 percent of all mobile data traffic," stated the report.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Tags: Ericsson, internet of things, IoT

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