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Mobile devices to outnumber people on planet this year

Smartphones and tablets. It appears that we can’t get enough of them. According to the latest research by network firm Cisco, at some point this year there will be more mobile devices on the planet than humans. So that’ll be about 7 billion then.

But it won’t stop there. Consumers will go on consuming, with those in emerging markets getting connected in ever greater numbers. Many people will soon be carrying with them not just a smartphone, but a tablet too. In fact, Cisco predicts that by 2016 there will be more than 10 billion mobile-connected devices among an expected world population of some 7.3 billion people. Tech companies will be salivating at the very thought.

Of course, such proliferation will bring with it a set of challenges that’ll need to be dealt with in a timely manner or else the entire mobile communications system will be in danger of simply seizing up. The more mobile devices there are, the more pressure there’ll be on mobile networks, and the companies operating them.

Faster networks

Faster networks will also create a challenge. According to Cisco, 4G currently only accounts for 0.2 percent of mobile connections but is responsible for 6 percent of mobile data traffic. Furthermore, a 4G connection generates 28 times more data traffic than a non-4G connection, Cisco said. So if the next iteration of Apple’s expected-soon iPad supports 4G, as some have suggested it will, that’ll help push data usage even higher.

Cisco predicted that by the end of this year, 100 million smartphone users will belong to what it calls the ‘gigabyte club’, with users generating more than 1GB of mobile data traffic each month. And over the next four years, that figure will fly off the charts.

“By 2016, 60 percent of mobile users – three billion people worldwide – will belong to the gigabyte club,” Suraj Shetty, vice-president of products and solutions at Cisco, told the BBC.

Of course, as time goes on, the technology employed by mobile network companies should improve, but even today the likes of AT&T and Verizon Wireless have said the increasing amount of data traffic flowing through its system is putting a strain on their respective services, forcing the companies to raise prices and introduce data caps in the hope of limiting usage so that its current bandwidth capacity can cope with demand.


The huge popularity of tablets, a device which only came into being two years ago with the launch of Apple’s iPad, is also helping to ramp up data consumption, with those devices generating three times more traffic than smartphones. Cisco says that by 2016 tablets will be responsible for over 10 percent of global mobile traffic.

While manufacturers of mobile phones and tablets will be rubbing their hands in eager anticipation of the possible riches that await them in the coming years, one question remains: In 2016, which maker will be dominating the mobile market? Apple? Samsung? Or a company we haven’t even heard of yet?

[Top image: Sam72 / Shutterstock] [Bottom image: Reno Martin / Shutterstock]

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