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Forecast methodology

Ericsson makes forecasts on a regular basis to support internal decisions and planning, as well as market communication. The forecast time horizon in the Mobility Report is six years and is moved forward one year in the November report each year. The subscription and traffic forecast baseline in this report uses historical data from various sources, validated with Ericsson internal data, including measurements in customer networks. Future developments are estimated based on macroeconomic trends, user trends, market maturity and technological advances. 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

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 findings divide subscriptions according to the highest-enabled technology they can be used for. LTE subscriptions, in most cases, also include the possibility for the subscription to access 3G (WCDMA/HSPA) and 2G (GSM or CDMA in some markets) networks. A 5G subscription is counted as such when associated with a device that supports New Radio as specified in 3GPP Release 15, and 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.

Rounding of figures

As figures are rounded, summing up data may result in slight differences from the actual totals. In the key figures tables, subscriptions have been rounded to the nearest 10th of a million. However, when used in highlights in the articles, subscriptions are usually expressed in full billions or to one decimal place. Compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is calculated on the underlying, unrounded numbers and is then rounded to the nearest full percentage figure. Traffic volumes are expressed in two or three significant figures.


There is a large difference between the numbers 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 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. However, in some developing regions, it is common for several people to share one subscription, for example via 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 worldwide total mobile traffic. More detailed 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), together 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.