Monday, October 5, 2009

ITU: 4.6 Billion Mobile Phones, 67% Global Penetration

Mobile cellular has been the most rapidly adopted technology in history, according to the ITU, with global mobile subscriptions expected to reach 4.6 billion by the end of the year. This equates to roughly 67% of the world's population. Mobile broadband subscriptions are expected to top 600 million in 2009, having overtaken fixed broadband subscribers in 2008.

Mobile technologies are making major inroads in developing countries, however the ITU's statistics also highlight important regional discrepancies, with mobile broadband penetration rates still low in many African countries and other developing nations.

More than a quarter of the world's population is online and using the Internet, as of 2009. Ever-increasing numbers are opting for high-speed Internet access, with fixed broadband subscriber numbers more than tripling from 150 million in 2004 to an estimated 500 million by the end of 2009.

Rapid high-speed Internet growth in the developed world contrasts starkly with the state of play in the developing world. In Africa, for example, there is only one fixed broadband subscriber for every 1,000 inhabitants, compared with Europe where there are some 200 subscribers per 1,000 people. The relative price for ICT services (especially broadband) is highest in Africa, the region with the lowest income levels. The report finds that China has the world's largest fixed broadband market, overtaking its closest rival, the US, at the end of 2008.

Some other notable facts from the ITU:

  • Whereas three quarters of households globally have a TV, one third has a computer. With prices in continuous decline, and ongoing convergence of devices, the gap is likely to narrow quickly

  • Developing countries are only 10 years behind Sweden in mobile telephony adoption, yet In 2007, infant mortality rate for developing countries was at a level where Sweden was 72 years earlier

  • Even the country furthest behind (Myanmar) in terms of mobile cellular penetration is where Sweden was just 24 years earlier. By comparison, the GDP lag for most of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), compared to Sweden, is over 160 years.