Ummid Assistant

Applications open for Manmohan scholarship at Cambridge

Opportunities for Indian students in US

Welcome Guest! You are here: Home » Views & Analysis

12 billion mobiles in the next 10 years

Sunday April 07, 2013 10:10:26 AM, Prasanto K. Roy, IANS

One kilogram. That's what it weighed, the bulky prototype used for a wireless phone call by a Motorola engineer in 1973. For the real milestone 10 years later, a 790-gram Motorola DynaTAC made the first call from a commercial mobile phone, in a Mercedes in 1983. That makes the mobile 30 years old, and not the 40 that's being reported.

Since then, it's been a long road to today's smart, slim, all-colour 100-gram personal digital companion. The mobile helped India leapfrog past wireline telephony, to a personal phone for every other citizen. It's altered social behaviour. It's caused revolutions.

Mobile subscriptions grew from zero in 1983 to 12 million in 1990, and then to 6 billion in 2011. The world bought 1.75 billion mobiles in 2012. Of the 1.8 billion expected to sell in 2013, about half could be smartphones.

So how's the mobile changed in 30 years? Yes, it's now small and light, and has gone from one-line mono display to colour to high-definition. The bigger deal is that it's moved from voice to mostly data: email, browsing, apps. And from phone to personal companion. Yet the mobile is far from perfect. There are two big issues.

The first is the battery: The only reason why James Bond's wrist-watch mobiles are impractical. Ten years ago, my Nokia 6310i would last seven days on a charge. My 2013 BlackBerry Z10 struggles to last a day.

The battery hasn't kept up with the increase in data and apps use. In the voice-only era, the phone's radio (the part that sends and receives signals) would be in use for two hours in 24. In today's data age, those radios work continuously, draining batteries.

The second is congestion. Mobiles use radio spectrum, a scarce resource. The more phones fight for that spectrum, the worse our experience is: Failed and dropped calls, breaking voices.

But with over 6 billion subscriptions already there for its 7 billion people, will our planet keep up the explosive mobile-telephony growth of the past 30 years? Oh, yes!

Let's look at those subscriptions. A half-billion are in multi-SIM phones or multiple phones owned by the same person. Or in other devices such as iPads, or laptop dongles.

Another half-billion mobile users are machines. Electric meters, escalators, automobiles, security cameras, with built-in cellular modules. They auto-report readings, usage status, failures. Some, like digital doorlocks, allow remote control.

Both parts are seeing explosive growth. Users are adding mobile data devices, including tablets, laptops, connected GPS units. And by 2020, many household and office appliances, and most vehicles, will have cellular modules, for usage, status, and maintenance reporting.

All this will add at least another six billion mobile-phone subscriptions by 2020. And so we'll have 12 billion cellular devices fighting for scarce spectrum.

So here's where the mobile phone is headed in the next ten years:

Ubiquity: They'll be all around, inside appliances, cars, bicycles. These embedded modules will make up a third of 12 billion "subscriptions" by 2020.

Data-only devices will rival phones in numbers, by 2020: dongles, iPads, SIMs in laptops.

Smartphones will be 100 percent of the mobile-phone population, up from about a quarter now. Even the cheapest $30 model will be a smartphone.

The battery will struggle to keep pace with apps and displays, even with advances such as nanowire lithium-polymer. Till 2020, when we should see the next big leap in battery tech. This could be lithium-air, magnesium, fuel-cell, or something else.

Wearable wrist-watch phones will start getting into vogue by 2015, from Apple, Samsung and others, but will get really practical only by 2020, with major changes in battery tech.

Beyond 4G, the big challenge is to squeeze 12 billion devices into the same scarce spectrum. This will be met through a 5G tech that will focus less on giant leaps in raw speed, and more on efficiently using less spectrum for heavy mixed-media use.

So what will the phone look like in 2020?

Current shapes - slim, all-touch units - will continue at the low end. They'll all be smartphones, of course. At the upper end, there'll be serious, wearable phones, in wristwatches, even spectacle-frames. Spanning both ends will be heavy use of video. While, all around us, invisibly, those billions of embedded cellular modules will keep chattering.


Prasanto K. Roy is editorial advisor at CyberMedia - @prasanto on twitter. He can be contacted at








Home | Top of the Page


Note: By posting your comments here you agree to the terms and conditions of

Comments powered by DISQUS


More Headlines

Throwing stones Palestinians’ birthright, says Israeli writer

Law to let IIMs award degrees under consideration: IIM-C director

British woman murdered in Srinagar houseboat, Dutchman held

Kejriwal: Voice of poor or eye on polls?

Indebted man, three family members found dead

Jamia Millia Islamia undergraduate private exams from May 1

Urdu, Sanskrit are India's culture, says Katju

Another case slapped on Raja Bhaiyya on witness's complaint

Government plans to give LPG subsidy in cash to beneficiaries

UP wins 'most improved state' award under health insurance scheme


Top Stories

Who make the list of most powerful Indians in GCC

The above facts are not just assumptions, they are real facts derived from the figures emerged after analyzing the list of one hundred powerful Indians in six GCC countries  »

Expatriate exposes pathetic condition of Indian Muslims living in Middle East

Indians in Middle East remit home over $35 billion every year


  Most Read

Government plans to give LPG subsidy in cash to beneficiaries

The government is planning to start transferring the subsidy for cooking gas in cash under the direct benefit transfer scheme, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said Saturday. Addressing a media conference here, Chidambaram said he would  »

Throwing stones Palestinians’ birthright, says Israeli writer

A newspaper op-ed piece by an Israeli writer has revived an emotional debate surrounding Israel’s 45-year rule over the West Bank and east Jerusalem: Do Palestinians who throw rocks at Israelis exercise a “birthright” of resisting military occupation, as the author argued? Or is  »


  News Pick

UP wins 'most improved state' award under health insurance scheme

In a first, Uttar Pradesh has been selected as the "most improved state" under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). The award would be handed over to Alok Kumar, the  »

Two builders held for Thane building collapse

Maharashtra Police Saturday arrested two builders in connection with the collapse of a seven-floor building here that killed 72 people, even as rescuers ended their 42-hour operations, police said.  »

Thane building collapse: Death toll 48; two suspended

Punjab NRIs to get 10 percent quota in projects, plots

Announcing its aim to make Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) equal partners in Punjab's development, the Punjab government Friday announced a comprehensive plan to reserve 10 percent quota in projects and  »

Can Rahul reform his party - and system?

The recent reaffirmation by the Congress of its governing model of dual centres of power, notwithstanding party general secretary  »


Picture of the Day

President of India Pranab Mukherjee released a Commemorative Postage Stamp on Late Yashwantrao Chavan, at the concluding ceremony of the birth centenary celebration of former CM of Maharashtra, Late Yashwantrao Chavan, in Mumbai on March 23, 2013. Union Minister for Agriculture and Food Processing Industries Sharad Pawar is also seen.


Recommend the story to your friends



RSS  |  Contact us


| Quick links



Subscribe to

Ummid Assistant



Science & Technology



About us




Government Schemes










Contact us


The Funny Side

Education & Career Disclaimer | Terms of Use | Advertise with us | Link Exchange is part of the Awaz Multimedia & Publications providing World News, News Analysis and Feature Articles on Education, Health. Politics, Technology, Sports, Entertainment, Industry etc. The articles or the views displayed on this website are for public information and in no way describe the editorial views. The users are entitled to use this site subject to the terms and conditions mentioned.

© 2012 Awaz Multimedia & Publications. All rights reserved.