Global Mobile Trends Report: Industry Shift to Asia, Rise of the Mobile Internet


The GSMA today launched its inaugural ‘Global Mobile Trends’ report, offering a vast wealth of data and insight on the state of the mobile ecosystem today and mapping out its future development. This flagship report, produced by GSMA Intelligence, the research arm of the GSMA, compiles data on mobile subscriber growth trends, mobile internet adoption, devices, and industry financials from both a global and regional perspective.

“This first edition of the annual Global Mobile Trends report pulls together key data and analysis from GSMA Intelligence to present a comprehensive view of the megatrends shaping the global mobile ecosystem,” said Hyunmi Yang, Chief Strategy Officer at the GSMA. “In this year’s report we demonstrate evidence of a major shift in mobile to Asia, particularly India, which has now overtaken China to become the industry’s key growth market, and the transition to a smartphone-powered ‘mobile-first’ internet, which is delivering a new generation of internet users. The study also underscores the role of Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things in ushering a new era of automation.”

The 2016 edition of the Global Mobile Trends report is organised into five sections: Megatrends; Consumer Insights; Industry Performance and Mobile Ecosystem Dynamics; Future View and Regional View.

Key megatrends covered in the report include:

Asia Becomes the Growth Engine of the Mobile Ecosystem

More than one billion additional people worldwide will be connected to mobile networks by 20201. Approximately a third of these new users will come from India (337 million), underlining the country’s increasing position as the world’s most significant mobile growth market, overtaking China. China is forecast to add more than 200 million subscribers and there will also be major net subscriber contributions from Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. In total, these six Asian markets will account for approximately 60 per cent of the 1.1 billion new subscribers added globally by the end of the decade.

The Mobile Internet is the Internet

New mobile subscribers are more likely to be younger and are also more likely to be ‘mobile-first’ or ‘mobile-only’ internet users. Today 46 per cent of the global population is using mobile phones to access the internet, a figure forecast to increase to 60 per cent by 2020. As there will only be a minimal increase in the number of fixed internet households over this period, the increase in mobile phone ownership will therefore be the key factor driving global internet penetration. The increasing availability and affordability of 3G/4G devices and networks is also contributing to this phenomenon. Fast-growth markets where mobile internet penetration is currently low include India (32 per cent of the population) and Sub-Saharan Africa (25 per cent).

Smartphones are King – Even in Low-income Markets

The study indicates that smartphones may now be the most commonly owned consumer electronics device. In the UK, for example, smartphone penetration now stands at 71 per cent of mobile connections. This compares to 60-70 per cent across the rest of Europe, 75 per cent in the US, and above 80 per cent in some Asian markets such as South Korea and Singapore. However, smartphone growth has plateaued in most developed markets. By contrast, the smartphone adoption rate in India stands at only 25 per cent and unit volumes are growing by 30 per cent a year. The study predicts that several low-income countries (with per capita GDP below $10,000) will have smartphone adoption rates of 60–70 per cent by 2020, similar to most advanced regions and creating a new base of mobile internet users. This trend is being driven by continued decreases in device costs and rising incomes.

Shift in Revenue Towards Platforms and Content

Revenue from mobile services worldwide is forecast to grow by around 2 per cent annually through to 2020. Organic revenue growth is slowing in line with slowing subscriber growth, but is being offset by new revenue opportunities resulting from rising mobile internet adoption and the move to higher-speed networks. It is projected that annual revenue from voice, SMS and mobile data combined will surpass $1.5 trillion by 2020. However, as a proportion of overall mobile ecosystem revenue, the contribution from these services will fall from 41 per cent today to 38 per cent by 2025. By contrast, revenue from content services – services such as Netflix and Spotify – will increase from 3 per cent of ecosystem revenue today to 17 per cent by 2025.

Artificial Intelligence is Becoming the Super Enabler

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is emerging as the catalyst that will accelerate a number of emerging sectors, including connected cars and smart homes. Personal assistants (or bots) will be one of the early battlegrounds in AI led by the likes of Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. These services are providing the ‘voice interface’ that can coordinate devices and data across a broad range of applications, creating voice-controlled hubs, with Amazon Echo and Google Home as examples. An ecosystem of AI-focused companies is emerging, comprising both established firms and start-ups. AI attracted $2.3 billion in venture capital last year and is also a major focus of current merger and acquisition activity.

The 2016 edition of the Global Mobile Trends report is based on proprietary GSMA Intelligence data and research, supported by selected data from third-party sources. The GSMA plans to publish this report on an annual basis, providing insights on the mobile ecosystem that will help the industry identify future areas of growth and innovation.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here