Emerging mobile markets are being driven by low-cost Android devices and falling data prices, according to the 2018 GSMA Mobile Trends Report. Alongside new technology like IoT and 5G, brands now face the challenge of a mobile-only consumer and those in non-English, low-income areas.

Lower Cost Fuels Mobile Adoption

Global smartphone adoption will reach 80 percent by the year 2025, GSMA predicts, with the highest concentrations in North America and Europe.

GSMA notes that a range of Chinese OEMs, mostly running Android, are driving lower data costs. In developing countries where fixed broadband is not an option, the high price of mobile access has prevented widespread adoption. Nigeria has experienced the most significant drop in monthly data bundle costs, from nearly four percent of a consumer’s monthly income in 2012 to just under one percent in 2017.

Mobile-Only Is The New Norm

As mobile usage reaches its peak worldwide, growth will shift away from adoption to internet access. By 2025, GSMA predicts that nearly three-quarters of the global internet base will be mobile-only, meaning that they do not access the internet from PC or any other device.

The GSMA predicts an increase in the attachment rate—mobile users also using the internet—from 65 percent in 2017 to 86 percent in 2025.

Half of that growth will originate from just five countries: China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan, with the rest clustered in Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia.

“The more nuanced challenge,” GSMA says in the report, “will be how to engage and retain customers that are mostly young, lower income, non-English speaking, and lack access to services taken for granted in western countries (banking, health, education).”

Make Way For 5G

An estimated 1.36 billion 5G consumer mobile connections will exist by 2025, driven by a small number of countries. China will represent the largest 5G penetration, more than double that of the US, and has already been a test bed for applications in automotive, drones and high-tech manufacturing.

The key issue will not be whether 5G works, GSMA warns, but whether consumers and B2B clients understand how it solves a problem.

Faster speeds will certainly be a selling point, but the real opportunity lies in AR/VR immersion—the technology of which is “not there yet,” the report points out, with monetization also in question.

Despite the hype surrounding 5G, LTE will remain the foundation for operators for at least the next decade. In fact, GSMA predicts that LTE will increase to 57 percent of total connections in 2025.