Ericsson forecasts 16bn IoT devices by 2021

01 June 2016 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

Devices connected to the internet of things (IoT) will overtake the number of mobile phones by 2018 and the total number of IoT devices will reach 16 billion by 2021.

Between 2015 and 2021, the number of IoT connected devices is expected to grow 23% a year, of which cellular IoT is forecast to have the highest growth rate. Of the 28 billion total devices that will be connected by 2021, close to 16 billion will be IoT devices.

The numbers come from the 2016 version of Ericsson’s annual Mobility Report, which also says that by the third quarter of this year there will be more smartphones than basic mobile phones in operation.

Rima Qureshi, chief strategy officer at Ericsson, said: “IoT is now accelerating as device costs fall and innovative applications emerge. From 2020, commercial deployment of 5G networks will provide additional capabilities that are critical for IoT, such as network slicing and the capacity to connect exponentially more devices than is possible today.”

Western Europe will lead the way in adding IoT connections, said the company: the number of IoT devices in this market is projected to grow 400% by 2021. This will principally be driven by regulatory requirements, for example for intelligent utility meters, and a growing demand for connected cars including the EU e-call directive to be implemented in 2018.

There will be 6.3 billion smartphones by 2021, double today’s number. There are 5 billion unique mobile users in the world, added the company.

But Ericsson warned that additional spectrum harmonisation is needed between countries planning early 5G deployments.