Africa’s Mobile Data Traffic Growth Doubles in Two Years

Mobile data traffic in Sub-Saharan Africa, like the rest of the world will maintain an upward trajectory, as mobile broadband-capable devices become more accessible. For markets like SA and Kenya, the conclusion of high-demand radio frequency spectrum allocations will lead the rise of data traffic, according to the 2022 Ericsson Mobility Report.

While traffic growth is often considered “highly volatile” between years, the 22nd edition of the Ericsson report reveals global mobile network data traffic doubled in the past two years.

This growth, notes the report, was driven by increased smartphone and mobile broadband usage, as well as the digitalisation of society and industries.

Furthermore, it highlights the strong demand data connectivity and digital services have, and are expected to have, despite the global COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical uncertainties.

Based on the report’s findings, mobile network data traffic grew 40% between the first quarter (Q1) of 2021 and Q1 of 2022.

“The quarter-on-quarter mobile network data traffic growth between Q4 2021 and Q1 2022 was around 10%. Total monthly global mobile network data traffic reached around 93EB, meaning it has doubled in just two years since Q1 2020.

“Over the long-term, traffic growth is driven by both the rising number of smartphone subscriptions and an increasing average data volume per subscription, fuelled primarily by increased viewing of video content.”

Fredrik Jejdling, executive VP and head of networks at Ericsson, adds: “Continuous network modernisation and coverage build-out has led to several hundred million people becoming new mobile broadband subscribers every year.”

Turning to data traffic in Sub-Saharan Africa, the report notes increasingly affordable price plans and service provider subsidies in some parts of the region will help the upward trajectory.

South Africa and Kenya’s spectrum allocations will enable service providers to extend their coverage and capacity of 3G/4G networks, it states.

“3G mobile data traffic is still increasing, but most of the traffic growth is expected to be in the 4G networks. The average data traffic per smartphone is expected to reach 11GB per month over the forecast period.”

The report projects that total global mobile data traffic will grow around 4.2% to reach 282EB per month in 2027.

The traffic growth up to 2027 includes an assumption that an initial uptake of XR-type services, including augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality, will happen in the latter part of the forecast period.

“If adoption is stronger than expected, data traffic could increase even more than currently anticipated towards the end of the forecast period.

“Currently, video traffic is estimated to account for 69% of all mobile data traffic, a share that is forecast to increase to 79% in 2027.

“Populous markets that launch 5G early are likely to lead traffic growth over the forecast period. 5G’s share of mobile data traffic was around 10% in 2021, and this share is forecast to grow to 60% in 2027.”

More growth projections

Ericsson predicts the number of fixed wireless access (FWA) connections will exceed 100 million in 2022, reaching almost 230 million by 2027.

Of these 230 million, the number of 5G FWA connections is expected to grow to around 110 million by 2027, representing almost half of the total FWA connections, it reveals.

FWA is a connection that provides primary broadband access through mobile network-enabled customer premises equipment.

According to the Ericsson report, more than 75% of service providers surveyed in over 100 countries are offering FWA services.

“Out of 311 service providers studied, 238 had an FWA offering, representing an average of 77% globally. Service providers’ adoption of FWA offerings has more than doubled in the last three years.”

Ericsson has determined that FWA will play an increasingly important role in the delivery of broadband services across the globe.

At the end of 2021, there were around 8.2 billion mobile subscriptions, according to Ericsson.

Therefore, it projects the figure will increase to around 9.1 billion by the end of 2027. “During the same time, the share of mobile broadband subscriptions will increase from 84% to 93%.”

It’s also anticipated that the number of unique mobile subscribers will grow from 6.1 billion at the end of 2021 to 6.7 billion by the end of the forecast period.

Subscriptions associated with smartphones continue to rise, indicates the report.

At the end of 2021, there were 6.3 billion, accounting for about 77% of all mobile phone subscriptions. This is forecast to reach 7.8 billion in 2027, accounting for around 87% of all mobile subscriptions at that time.

On the other hand, subscriptions for fixed broadband are expected to grow around 4%, with FWA connections anticipated to show strong growth of 17% annually through 2027.

Subscriptions for mobile PCs and tablets are expected to show moderate growth, reaching around 540 million in 2027, it concludes.



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