Ericsson backs away from expectation of 50B connected devices by 2020, now sees 26B

Since late 2009, Ericsson's (NASDAQ: ERIC) vision of what it calls the "Networked Society" has included a key prediction: that by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices around the world. Now, Ericsson is backing off of that claim, and thinks there will be around half that many connected devices in five years.

In its latest Ericsson Mobility Report, the network vendor noted that "M2M is a rapidly growing segment and our forecast points to there being 26 billion connected devices by 2020."

"New use cases are emerging for both short and long range applications, which would lead to even stronger growth of connected devices, confirming we are well on the way to achieving the vision of 50 billion connected devices," the company said.

Ericsson now claims the 50 billion target was a vision rather than a specific forecast, which it made before LTE networks were ubiquitously deployed and smartphones had become as popular as they are now.

"This is the first time we publish a connected devices forecast based on thorough analysis," the company told Mobile World Live in a statement. "The M2M area has been developing over several years, and while we now communicate our current view of the development in form of a forecast, the area is still new and much can change."

Ericsson did not give an updated timeframe for when it expects the world to see 50 billion devices, but the company said that "50 billion connected devices is a good milestone that we believe will be reached sometime after 2020."

In January 2014, Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg noted that back in 2010 many in the wireless industry scoffed at Ericsson's predictions that there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020. "People are not doubting that now," Vestberg said during the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show.

Ericsson is not the only network vendor that has predicted a crush of traffic and device connections as part of the Internet of Things. Cisco Systems has said for years it thinks there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020. Huawei said in September 2014 it expects a total of 100 billion connections (both human and machine) by 2025, a figure that includes 8 billion smartphones. Huawei said that 90 percent of those connections would come from intelligent sensors.

Wireless executives at both carriers and vendors, as well as regulators, routinely cite figures like that to justify investments into IoT market segments and herald the coming data tsunami.  

Some of the headline figures from Ericsson's latest Mobility Report include the prediction that by 2020, 70 percent of people will be using smartphones and 90 percent will be covered by mobile broadband networks. The report also said average monthly data usage per smartphone in North America will increase from 2.4 GB today to 14 GB by 2020.

Ericsson also expects video traffic to grow 55 percent per year until 2020, driven by video streaming services and increasing prevalence of video in online content. The vendor thinks video content will make up around 60 percent of all mobile data traffic by the end of that period.

For more:
- see this Mobile World Live article
- see this Ericsson release
- see this Ericsson Mobility Report for 2015 (PDF)
- see this Ericsson Mobility Report North American Appendix (PDF)

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Ericsson CEO: Video will generate half of all mobile data traffic in 2015
Ericsson: Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, Instagram and Snapchat make up 61% of U.S. mobile app traffic
Ericsson: 50% of all mobile traffic will be video by 2020
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