STOCKHOLM: Mobile subscription numbers are set to overtake global population levels in 2013, a process driven by the rising uptake of smartphones and growth in emerging markets, a study has argued.

Ericsson, the telecoms group, stated there are now 6.4bn mobile subscriptions, a figure due to hit 9.3bn in 2018. Within this, there should be 7.5bn subscriptions by the end of 2013, when the United Nations expects the worldwide population to be 7bn.

Smartphones were pegged to see a lift from 1.1bn to 3.3bn from 2012 to 2018. Ericsson said: "Around 15% of the worldwide installed base of mobile phone subscriptions uses smartphones, which means that there is considerable room for further uptake."

"In 2018 almost all handsets in Western Europe and North America will be smartphones, compared with only around one third of handsets for Middle East and Africa and Asia Pacific."

Mobile PCs, tablets and mobile routers were also anticipated to witness growth from 250m to 850m units, while mobile broadband subscriptions will increase from 1.5bn to 6.5bn.

In reflection of these shifts, total mobile data traffic will leap from 1,100 petabytes in 2012 to 13,000 petabytes in 2018. For PCs, such figures stood at 3,000 megabytes and 11,000 megabytes in turn.

When discussing smartphones, data traffic rates are expected to surge from 450 megabytes a month to 1,900 megabytes in this period, standing at 600 megabytes and 2,700 megabytes for tablets.

Irrespective of device, online video is the main source of traffic, yielding between 25% and 40% percent of activity depending on the precise channel. Web browsing followed next, on 15% to 20%.

At present, there are 1.2bn subscriptions in China, and 913m in India. The rest of Asia Pacific recorded 1.2bn here, topping Africa on 724m and Latin America on 676m.

Central and Eastern Europe also logged 619m on this metric, with Western Europe on 528m, North America on 354m and the Middle East on 268m.

However, Ericsson reported that the real number of subscriptions is approximately 4.3bn, as many users have more than one. This equates to an actual global penetration of 91%.

More specifically, penetration stands at around 128% in Central, Eastern and Western Europe, as well as 112% in Latin America, some 103% in the Middle East and 101% in North America. China posted 81% here, ahead of India's 72% and Africa's 67%.

Data sourced from Ericsson/Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff