An explosion of demand for data on mobile devices has put a real strain on wireless network carriers and infrastructure.
Worldwide 5.7 billion people subscribe to a wireless device, said Roberto Padovani, executive vice president at Qualcomm.
“It’s truly the biggest platform in the history of mankind,” he said, during a Tuesday morning keynote address at the Texas Wireless Summit in downtown Austin.
The biggest growth comes from smart phones, Padovani said. The number of 3-G subscribers is expected to grow from 1.4 billion currently to 3.2 billion by 2015, he said.
The number of devices, applications and services and network capabilities continues to grow, Padovani said. Smart phone users will download an estimated 100 billion applications by 2015. Smart phone makers will sell 4 billion devices by 2015. And the days of the “all you can eat” data plans are going away.
“This is what is creating the perfect storm,” Padovani said.
The number of 3-G subscribers is expected to double every two years, he said. Today, 730 3-G networks exist in more than 200 countries. And more than 6,000 devices exist to connect to those networks, he said.
“3G brought connectivity to a point where we can consider it broadband,” Padovani said. “A lot of people will have Internet connectivity for the first time on a mobile device. The smart phone is becoming a dominant computing platform.”
Just this year, device makers launched more than 90 new smart phone models, Padovani said.
The growth in demand for data on mobile devices is coming from China, India, the Middle East and Africa, Padovani said. And sales of smart phones that cost less than $300 are growing at 40 percent annually, compared to 15 percent growth for smart phones that cost more than $300. And Google’s Android phone dominates the market with phones that cost less than $150, Padovani said.
But the growth in wireless devices is not just coming from phones but from everything from e-readers to blood glucose monitors to Mi-Fi devices and smart picture frames. And the wireless tablet market is projected to grow between 50 percent to 80 percent annually.
Data traffic growth doubled last year and is expected to grow ten to twelve times between 2010 and 2015.
“If you look at these numbers it’s just mind boggling,” Padovani said. “This is definitely challenging on the network side.”
Lots of opportunities for innovation exist for companies in the wireless industry, Padovani said.
Augmented reality and 3-D animated content on smart phones will put further constraints on the network, he said.
“The demands on the computing components of these devices is only going to get bigger,” Padovani said. “How do we deal with the spectrum crunch to support the explosion of data demands?”
The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates spectrum in the United States, is already exploring ways to free up more spectrum for the wireless industry, Padovani said.

Padovani was one of many speakers at the Texas Wireless Summit, which brings together companies, university researchers and venture capitalists. They gather to learn about the latest trends in the industry, said Kyle Cox with the Austin Technology Incubator, the event’s sponsor. About 200 people attended the day-long event at the AT&T Conference and Education Center. It’s the 10th annual Texas Wireless Summit and some companies exhibiting in the past have met funders at the event, Cox said. Austin-based companies showcasing their wares at this year’s event include Famigo Games, GameUp, Evernote, Digby and Digital Harmony Games.