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The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing and growing fast, according to Ericsson's latest Mobility Report.
By 2018 the IoT will surpass mobile phones as the largest connected device category, the Swedish communications specialists predicts. "IoT is now accelerating as device costs fall and innovative applications emerge," said Rima Qureshi, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Ericsson, in a statement.
Beyond 2018, emerging wireless communications standards will help cement the IoT's place in the world of technology. "From 2020, commercial deployment of 5G networks will provide additional capabilities that are critical for IoT, such as network slicing and the capacity to connect exponentially more devices than is possible today."
Regardless of the technologies used by IoT devices to connect, the market will expand at a brisk clip over the next several years. "Between 2015 and 2021, IoT is expected to increase at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23 percent, making up close to 16 billion of the total forecast 28 billion connected devices in 2021," stated the report.
Last year, an estimated 400 million IoT devices used cellular connections to transmit data. By 2021, Ericsson expects that number to swell to 1.5 billion as the industry rolls up its sleeves and gets to work on making cellular-enabled devices and networks increasingly IoT-friendly.
"The growth is due to increased industry focus and 3GPP standardization of cellular IoT technologies. Cellular connections benefit from enhancements in provisioning, device management, service enablement and security," the report said.
In the meantime, mobile phone users continue to send more traffic over the world's telecommunications networks.
By 2021, a total of 52 exabytes of mobile traffic per month are expected to flow through mobile networks, up from 5.3 exabytes per month last year. Each smartphone will be responsible for 8.9 gigabytes per month by 2021 compared to just 1.4 GB in 2015.
Network operators added 63 million new mobile subscriptions during the first quarter of 2016, for a total of 7.4 billion connections. And later this year, smartphone owners will help the market reach a major tipping point.
"During Q3 2016 the number of smartphone subscriptions will surpass those for basic phones," stated the report. "In Q1 2016 smartphones accounted for close to 80 percent of all mobile phones sold."
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.