Half of the world’s population will have access to LTE services in 2017 while 85 percent will have access to 3G, driving mobile broadband subscriptions to hit 5 billion, acording to Ericsson’s latest Traffic and Market Report.

The increased access to mobile broadband – classed as HSPA or above – will see global mobile data traffic increase 15 fold between 2011 and 2017.

Ericsson also estimates that excluding M2M, there will be close to 9 billion mobile connections by 2017, with smartphones accounting for a third of all devices (3 billion connections). In 2011, there were 700 million smartphone subscriptions, used by 10 to 15 percent of the mobile user base.

The Swedish infrastructure giant expects mobile PC/tablet subscriptions will equal fixed broadband subscriptions by 2017.

Some 60 percent of the mobile traffic will come from metropolitan and urban areas, which cover one percent of the earth’s land area but are home to 30 percent of the population.

"Today, people see access to the internet as a prerequisite for any device. This mindset results in growing demand for mobile broadband and increased data traffic,” said Ericsson senior VP and head of strategy Douglas Gilstrap.

He added that operators are promoting this growth by providing high-capacity networks, with 75 percent of HSPA networks now running at a peak speed of 7.2Mb/s or above, and around 40 percent upgraded to 21Mb/s.

During the first quarter in 2012, there were 170 million new mobile subscriptions added, bringing the total to 6.2 billion. Forty percent of these additions came from China and India (39 million and 25 million respectively). The Asia Pacific region as a whole added 93 million subscriptions, with Africa adding 30 million.

Between the first quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012, mobile data volumes doubled, largely driven by the increased use of video services and uptake of smartphones.