The latest Ericsson Mobility Report, from the eponymous telecoms company, predicts that the number of mobile subscriptions will grow from the current figure of 7.1bn to 9.5bn by 2020, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5%.
Smartphone subscriptions are projected to grow three times as fast, at 15% CAGR, to reach a total of 6.1bn in 2020. This is being driven in large part by the increasing affordability of smartphones in developing markets, which means they are set to overtake global feature phone subscriptions within two years.
During the third quarter of 2014 alone, there were 110m new mobile subscriptions globally, with Asia-Pacific accounting for almost half of these and Africa almost one quarter.
India saw the largest number of net additions, at 18m, followed by China on 12m and Indonesia on 5m, the rest of Asia-Pacific contributing another 17m. There were also 26m new subscriptions across the African continent.
"The falling cost of both data usage and handsets, coupled with improved usability and increasing network coverage, are making mobile technology a global phenomenon that will soon be available to the vast majority of the world's population, regardless of age or location," declared Rima Qureshi, chief strategy officer at Ericsson.
And as smartphone penetration deepens, mobile video traffic is expected to continue to grow dramatically, increasing tenfold by 2020 to account for 55% of all mobile data traffic.
In 4G-dominated networks mobile video already constitutes between 45% and 55% of mobile traffic as the quality of video streaming has improved and as flat rate data plans enable users to watch video without fear of incurring large bills.
The report also looked at what a 5G future could mean. In addition to enhanced mobile broadband, it envisaged "mass market personalised TV" as part of a fully networked society.
Data sourced from Ericsson; additional content by Warc staff