By year end there are expected to be over four billion mobile subscribers worldwide. The forecast is part of a report presented by the International Telecommunications Union
Mobile subscriptions have grown an average 24 percent year-over-year between 2000 and 2008. In 2000 mobile penetration represented 12 percent globally. By early 2008 mobile penetration surpassed the 50 percent mark, and is estimated to reach 61 percent by year end.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) works with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to advance telecommunications globally and in underserved areas. “The fact that 4 billion subscribers have been registered worldwide indicates that it is technically feasible to connect the world to the benefits of ICT and that is a viable business opportunity,” said General Hamadoun Toure of the ITU.
Brazil, Russia, India, and China, are the leading countries in terms of growth in mobile subscriptions. The reports said these economies are expected to account for over 1.3 billion mobile subscribers by the end of 2008.
China exceeded 600 million subscriptions by the middle of 2008, representing the world’s largest mobile market. India surpassed 296 million subscribers in July, though its penetration rate remains low at 20 percent.
The four billion indicates a mobile phone user, and not necessarily a mobile Web user. It also indicates a subscriber rather than an individual. “Although in theory a 61 percent penetration rate suggests that at least every second person could be using a mobile phone, this is not necessarily the case,” the report said. In developing markets, mobile phones are serving as Web connections, and in some cases, are a user’s first experience online. Research shows developing nations are active content users on mobile phones, and the mobile populations in those countries potentially would be responsive to advertising.
Double counting often takes place when people have multiple subscriptions. Additionally, ITU notes operators’ methods for counting active prepaid subscribers vary, and often inflate the actual number of people using a mobile phone. In other cases some subscribers in developing countries share their mobile phones.