Ericsson makes forecasts on a regular basis to support internal decisions and planning. The forecast time horizon is six years and is moved forward one year in November each year. The subscription and traffic forecast baseline uses historical data from various sources, validated with Ericsson internal data, including measurements in customer networks.

Future developments are estimated based on macroeconomics, user trends, market maturity and technological developments. Other sources include industry analyst reports, together with internal assumptions and analyses. Historical data may be revised if the underlying data changes – for example, if operators report updated subscription figures.

Mobile subscriptions include all mobile technologies. Subscriptions are defined by the most advanced technology that the mobile phone and network are capable of. Our mobile subscriptions by technology divide subscriptions according to the highest enabled technology it can be used for. Hence, an LTE-subscription in most cases also includes possibility for the subscriber to access 3G (WCDMA/HSPA) and 2G networks (GSM or CDMA in some markets). A 5G subscription is counted as such when associated with a device that supports NR as specified in 3GPP release 15, connected to a 5G-enabled network.

Mobile broadband includes radio access technologies HSPA (3G), LTE (4G), 5G, CDMA2000 EV-DO, TD-SCDMA and Mobile WiMAX. WCDMA without HSPA and GPRS/EDGE are not included.

There is a large difference between the number of subscriptions and subscribers. This is because many subscribers have several subscriptions. Reasons for this could include users lowering traffic costs by using optimized subscriptions for different types of calls, maximizing coverage and having different subscriptions for mobile PCs/tablets and for mobile phones. In addition, it takes time before inactive subscriptions are removed from operator databases. Consequently, subscription penetration can be above 100 percent, which is the case in many countries today. It should however be noted that in some developing regions, it is common for several people to share one subscription, having for example a family or community shared phone.

Mobile data traffic
Ericsson regularly performs traffic measurements in over 100 live networks covering all major regions of the world. These measurements form a representative base for calculating world total mobile traffic. More detailed traffic measurements are made in a selected number of commercial WCDMA/HSPA and LTE networks with the purpose of understanding how mobile data traffic evolves. No subscriber data is included in these measurements.

Traffic refers to aggregated traffic in mobile access networks and does not include DVB-H, Wi-Fi or Mobile WiMAX traffic. VoIP is included in data traffic.

Population coverage
Population coverage is estimated using a database of regional population and territory distribution based on population density. This is then combined with proprietary data on the installed base of Radio Base Stations (RBS) combined with estimated coverage per RBS for each of six population density categories (from metro to wilderness). Based on this, the portion of each area that is covered by a certain technology can be estimated, as well as the percentage of the population it represents. By aggregating these areas on a regional and global level, world population coverage per technology can be calculated.