Superfast broadband everywhere is changing the world

Regardless of the access type – be it mobile or fixed, we see promising signs that technology is ready to offer a seamless broadband experience anywhere, with the potential to connect the unconnected everywhere.

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According to the United Nations Population Fund, it took hundreds of thousands of years for the world’s population to reach 1 billion and then just 200 years or so to grow sevenfold. Today, the global population sits around 7.5 billion and counting. Population growth comes with numerous challenges, including environmental degradation, depletion of natural resources and poverty. But there are also countless opportunities, some of those can potentially help tackling those challenges. This is where strong growth in mobile subscriptions as evidenced in the latest Ericsson Mobility Report comes into the picture as a very positive trend.

Mobile subscriptions are growing at around 4 percent year-on-year, having reached 7.6 billion earlier this year. This means that today, we have more mobile subscriptions than people on this planet, a milestone we already attained in 2016. Not every person in the planet would have a mobile subscription though, and the reason we see these numbers is because many of us can have more than one subscription or device which translates in mobile penetration exceeding 100% for several countries and on average, globally it is right now 102%. With such strong growth in subscriptions, it is no surprise that for many of the poorest economies in the world, the first encounter many people have with the internet is through a smartphone. By 2022 more than 90% of the subscriptions will be mobile broadband, which means people will be using these to connect to the internet, mostly through smartphones.

The benefits that broadband can bring to people, businesses and societies are outstanding. A 2011 study conducted by Ericsson, Arthur D. Little and Chalmers University of Technology found that increased broadband speeds can contribute significantly to economic growth, highlighting that doubling broadband speeds for an economy increases GDP by 0.3%, quite significant for the development of a country and the benefit of its people.

An example on broadband-driven change is Myanmar, where the last 20 years have seen dramatic change and the mobile arena has been no exception. In a country where the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita was less than USD 300 in 1998, a mobile subscription costed over USD 7000 the same year. Unsurprisingly, mobile penetration back then was close to zero. Today, a typical subscription can cost USD 1 and mobile penetration has climbed up close to 90% according to GSMA Intelligence, with a degree of service comparable to that of its regional peers. One of the many benefits brought upon by broadband in Myanmar is the “Connect To Learn” project which is expected to improve the learning outcomes for more than 21,000 students in the country this year. By improving literacy and numeracy, broadband is already enhancing the countries possibilities and boosting Myanmar’s huge growth potential.

With evidence of the benefits of connectivity, it is quite striking to learn that by 2022, there will still be 2.1 billion people without a mobile broadband connection, but even more dramatic is the fact that 70% (1.5 billion) of those unconnected people will have mobile broadband coverage, thus making it relatively easy to connect the unconnected by targeting current adoption barriers such as illiteracy, affordability and perceived relevance of digital services.

Technology seems to be ready to deliver on current broadband demands, even for developed economies. In Australia, Gigabit speeds have been attained in both mobile and fixed networks using LTE for Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). This means that fiber-like speeds can theoretically now be deployed anywhere, complementing existing fixed broadband deployments.

When one person connects, their life changes; but when everything is connected, our world changes. Already today, we see a dramatic change in quality of life for many countries thanks to broadband, since internet access is a fundamental enabler to access useful information and services. What changes will we see in 2022 if we could connect 1 billion people more?

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