It isn’t hard to argue that mobile is the preferred way most people around the globe want to use voice services. Globally, there were 87 mobile phone subscriptions for every 100 people in 2011. There were in 2011 about 18 fixed line phone subscriptions for every 100 people.

What now is happening that mobile is becoming the way a majority of people access the Internet. A large part of the reason is that smart phones increasingly represent the way people use the Internet. For the first time in history, the installed base of smart phones will exceed that of personal computers at the end of 2012.

That isn’t to say mobile access always is preferred. Where both mobile and fixed access methods are available, both get used. But in many regions, mobile is the only widely available form of Internet access.

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There were 589 million fixed broadband subscriptions by the end of 2011 (most of which were located in the developed world), but nearly twice as many mobile broadband subscriptions at 1.09 billion, the International Telecommunications Union broadband report says.

Of a stock of 5.97 billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide by the end of 2011, some 18.3 percent related to mobile broadband subscriptions..

According to Ericsson,mobile broadband subscriptions are growing by approximately 60 percent year over -year and could reach around 5 billion in 2017.

Worldwide, the total number of smart phones is expected to exceed 3 billion by 2017 (Ericsson, 201214), with the number of smartphones sold in Africa and the Middle East expected to increase four-fold from 29.7 million units sold in 2011 to 124.6 million by 2017 (Pyramid Research).

In Latin America, smart phones could represent half of all mobile phone sales by 2016. Smart phone adoption is also gaining momentum rapidly in the Asia-Pacific region, where smart phones are projected to account for 33.2% of all handsets sold in 2012, with China alone representing 48.2 percent of units sold.

But other mobile or untethered devices are important as well. Ericsson estimates that the total subscriptions of data-heavy devices (smart phones, mobile PCs and tablets) will grow from around 850 million at the end of 2011 to 3.8 billion by 2017.

To be sure, smart phone users do not tend to consume as much bandwidth as PC users do. But the number of smart phone devices will be so large that their overall impact will be about as large as the impact of PC Internet access, in terms of network demand.

Cisco estimates that adding one smart phone to a network is equivalent to adding 35 basic phones; adding one tablet is equivalent to 121 basic phones(or three smart phones); while adding a laptop or mobile PC is equivalent to 500 basic phones.

So total offered network load will be a combination of the quantity of devices and the bandwidth demand each type of device tends to create.

This leads Ericsson to conclude that, by about 2017, data traffic will be split fairly equally between smart phones, mobile PCs and tablets.