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Ericsson predicts over nine billion mobile subscriptions by 2017

Over three billion smartphones in circulation

Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman Android smartphone

Ericsson has published its latest mobile traffic report and is predicting the number of mobile subscriptions in 2017 will top nine billion, with the bulk of the growth coming in Asia and the Far East.

The world is going online, the report finds, but most people's first experience of the internet will be on a mobile phone rather than via a PC or laptop. By 2017 there should be over three billion smartphones in circulation, and worldwide 3G coverage should reach 85 per cent of the population, with 50 per cent having access to 4G.

According to Ericsson's predictions, around a third of laptops will have cellular connections by 2017, and around half of all tablets will be on the network all the time. This is going to mean a lot of subscriptions, and already the mobile subscription rate for Western Europe is equal to 126 per cent of the population.

While Ericsson is still very much in the telephony infrastructure business, it won’t be providing any of the handsets to users now that the Swedish company has sold off its remaining stake in its mobile partnership with Sony. CEO Vestberg said that the decision to get out of the market was an "emotional" one.

"For the first time we will not have a handset business," he told a press conference. "Mobile phones have moved from being an extension of the network to products that to cater for so many new things. As such it was the strategically correct decision."

While it won't be selling the handsets, he suggested half of all the calls made would be running on Ericsson hardware. Network latency was going to be a much bigger issue going forward he said, since Ericsson's data showed that the number one concern among smartphone users is network speed, rather than price for standard mobile subscribers.

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