Transitioning from the connected consumer to the digital consumer
While more than 3 billion people use mobile internet globally (internet-connected consumers), their digital engagement – measured by the GSMA Global Mobile Engagement Index (GMEI) – varies significantly between countries. On a scale of 0–10, South Korea (6.8), Scandinavian countries (e.g. Finland at 6.7, Sweden at 5.8), Australia (5.5) and the US (5.3) have relatively high mobile engagement scores (2017); many subscribers in these countries use their phones on a regular basis to access not only internet-based messaging and social media but also entertainment content (such as movies, music, games and sports), e-commerce and other digitally delivered services and content (i.e. financial services, health, education, government services). Pakistan, India and Tanzania have the lowest scores (at around 1.0).
A deeper look at the segmentation groups of smartphone users by their mobile engagement pattern reveals that the transition from the connected consumer to the digital consumer (those who regularly consume digital services and content via their smartphones) has been fastest in some of the most developed and tech-advanced markets such as the US, South Korea, Australia and across Scandinavia. Indeed, the most highly engaged smartphone users (‘Aficionados’) are predominant in North America, while the least engaged (‘Networkers’ and ‘Talkers’) dominate in most developing countries. See Figure 5.
Two major trends will occur over the next decade. In the developing world, smartphone users will gradually transition to higher levels of engagement. In the most developed markets, today’s digital consumers will likely become tomorrow’s augmented customers in the 5G era; they will increasingly adopt emerging technologies such as augmented reality; virtual reality; technology solutions and applications for smart homes, cities and buildings; and emerging services such as drone delivery, consumer robotics and autonomous cars.
Migration to smartphones that operate on highspeed mobile networks, coupled with increasing consumer propensity to engage in the digital world, is driving mobile data traffic up in all regions. According to Ericsson (in its Mobility Report November 2017), global mobile data traffic for all devices will increase eight-fold between 2017 and 2023, reaching 110 exabytes per month. Smartphones will account for close to 95% of total mobile data traffic by 2023.
As video technology continues to evolve (i.e. 4K, 8K, 3D video, 360-degree video) and video-based content is increasingly consumed across all regions and use cases, video will account for around 75% of mobile data traffic worldwide by 2023, up from 55% in 2017 (Ericsson). Newer applications that make content even more immersive and data intensive (such as AR and VR), as well as the future availability of 5G networks, will also be drivers of video traffic growth in the most developed markets.