A snapshot of today’s telecoms stats can make for some pretty valuable insights. Let’s dig into the data, via some questions, and see what the indications are for SS7 and LTE networks over the coming years and decades.
First, how many mobile subscribers are there, worldwide?
GSMA Intelligence displays a running counter, with the number of mobile connections, including individual subscribers and M2M (machine-to-machine).
Today, there are more than 4.7 billion unique mobile subscribers. That’s 74% of the world population of 6.5 billion people over the age of ten.
There are 7.9 billion global mobile connections – that’s the number of SIM cards. More than the world population figure, because some subscribers have more than one SIM-enabled device, and the number of M2M connections is rising rapidly, driven by massive growth in IoT.
What’s the technology spread (2G/3G versus LTE)?
The Global Mobile Suppliers Association releases LTE market reports, with information such as the number of LTE devices and LTE networks launched.
– Operators investing in LTE: 692 operators in 181 countries
– Commercially launched LTE networks: 442 in 147 countries
– Global LTE Subscriptions: 755 million
That figure of 755 million LTE subscriptions, is quite telling. With a total 4.7 billion subscribers, just 16% of mobile subscribers worldwide are LTE/EPC/Diameter based, with the remaining 84% being 2G/3G SS7 based.
…but that is assuming those 755 million are unique subscribers. If we are to consider that figure as ‘mobile connections’, then the number of unique LTE subscribers is much lower.
What does this data indicate for the future of SS7 and LTE networks?
Clearly mobile operators and equipment vendors are building out LTE networks – and gaining network operations experience.
Once this build out phase is completed, service providers will bring a marketing focus to the task of migrating their 2G/3G subscribers onto their LTE/4G networks.
Saturation point for the mobile subscriber base worldwide is approaching rapidly. Major network growth will occur as subscribers transition from 2G/3G to the LTE/4G networks.
But this transition could take 10 years or more to complete. Operators must maintain and support the existing SS7 networks for the foreseeable future.
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