To say that global device and connections are growing is a true understatement. And this growth is rapidly shifting.

By 2020, there will be 8.5 billion handheld or personal mobile-ready devices and 3.1 billion machine-to-machine (M2M) connections supported by mobile networks. From smartphones and tablets to PCs and “phablets”, mobile digitization and wearables adoption is creating new demands on wireless infrastructures.

On the heels of last week’s 10th annual VNI Mobile Forecast update, take a visual journey into the major role digitization, personal devices and M2M connections have on mobile data traffic growth.

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The Shift from PCs to Smartphones

Each year, new devices in different form factors and with increased capabilities and intelligence are introduced to the global market. For the 2015 VNI Mobile Forecast, phablets were added as a new subcategory within the smartphone segment, which is projected to grow from 38% of all mobile connections in 2015 to 48% of all mobile connections by 2020. Within the same time frame, the overall share of nonsmartphone devices–like PCs–will decline from 50% of all mobile connections in 2015 to 21% by 2020.

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The Rise of M2M Connections

If you’ve ever used a smart device app to turn on lights or adjust your home’s thermostat, then you have a pretty solid idea of the power of M2M solutions.

Connected Home applications will have the largest share of global mobile M2M connections by 2020 (40%). We live in an era where patient monitoring devices can now “talk” to a doctor’s smart device with real-time health and medication alerts. Connected health applications are projected to experience the fastest growth over the next five years (52% CAGR).

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More Wearables Hit the Market

Fitness trackers, smart watches, smart glasses and other “wearables” have taken the consumer market by storm. Most wearables share data and information with devices we already have, like smartphones and tablets, via Bluetooth connections. The ability to get more or new information about ourselves or the people and things we’re interested in is part of the attraction of wearables. Globally, the number of wearable devices will reach 601 million by 2020, up from 97 million in 2015.

Even without Bluetooth connections, the number of wearable devices with embedded cellular connectivity will reach 42 million by 2020, up from 3 million in 2015.

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Smart Connections Drive New Requirements and Expectations

When first introduced to the market, mobile technologies were focused on supporting the “basics” of communication, like voice and simple text messaging. But now, many devices are designated as “smart”, with advanced computing/multi-media capabilities and a minimum of 3G connectivity. And by 2020, 67% of global mobile connections will be smart. This influx of smart devices connections is creating new requirements and expectations for wireless networks.


The ways and means of connecting people and things is likely to offer more challenges and opportunities to a constantly evolving mobile ecosystem of device manufacturers, network operators, application developers, content providers, consumers and others. How have you seen mobile devices and connection trends impact your business? What new possibilities are you most excited about when it comes to new opportunities mobile devices make possible?

Share your answers and thoughts with us below. In the meantime, to learn more about other mobile device and connection trends that are changing everything about how we connect, communicate and collaborate, check out the Cisco VNI Forecast Homepage, the Cisco VNI Mobile Forecast Report and the Cisco VNI Mobile Forecast Highlights Tool for global, regional, and country-level information.

Register to attend the VNI Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast webcast on Tuesday, February 23.


Shruti Jain

Leader, Project & Program Management

X-Architecture Marketing, Enterprise Networking & Cloud