The latest Mobility Report from telecoms business Ericsson forecast that smartphone subscriptions will more than double by 2020, reaching a total of 6.1bn, with almost 80% of these new subscriptions coming from Asia Pacific (1,940m) and the Middle East & Africa (750m).
Over the same period, Latin America is slated to contribute 330m new subscriptions, Central & Eastern Europe 230m, Western Europe 140m and North America 120m.
Growth in mature markets will come from an increasing number of devices per individual, while in developing regions the increase is being driven by a surge in the numbers of new subscribers as smartphones become increasingly affordable.
Accompanying the doubling in smartphone subscriptions will be a tenfold increase in data usage; by 2020, 80% of all mobile data traffic will come from smartphones, with video driving much of this as it grows at a "staggering" 55% a year, the report said.
This is being driven by user preferences shifting towards video streaming services, and the increasing prevalence of video in online content including news, advertisements and social media.
Looking more closely at data consumption, however, showed heavy data users represent 10% of total subscribers but generate 55% of total data traffic. And video is dominant among heavy users, who typically watch around one hour of video per day, which is 20 times more than the average user.
Rima Qureshi, svp & chief strategy officer, Ericsson, said the rate of growth being forecast "makes today's big data revolution feel like the arrival of a floppy disk".
"We see the potential for mass-scale transformation, bringing a wealth of opportunities for telecom operators and others to capture new revenue streams," she declared.
"But it also requires greater focus on cost efficient delivery and openness to new business models to compete and remain effective," she added.
The need for openness was reinforced by another report finding: beyond smartphones, Ericsson forecasts there will be 26bn connected devices by 2020.
Data sourced from Ericsson; additional content by Warc staff