Global Mobile Population Growing

The global wireless market is expected to add an average of 186 million new subscribers each year, according to In-Stat/MDR, resulting in a total population of more than 2 billion by 2007. Estimates from The Yankee Group are slightly more conservative, putting the number of global mobile users at 1.78 billion by the end of 2007.

The Yankee Group found that Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) will account for 40 percent of users, and the research firm expects Africa’s penetration to reach 13 percent by 2008, equaling 125 million subscribers and $25 billion in revenue.

Asia-Pacific will contribute 38 percent of the total revenue by the end of 2007, and the region will sport the highest growth rate at 13.6 percent, according to the Yankee Group. In-Stat/MDR found that China alone will grow from 268.69 million users in 2003 to 497.86 million by 2008, reaching a penetration rate of 37.6 percent.

Western Europe will experience a slowdown in subscriber growth through 2007 when penetration tops 83 percent. Handset sales suffered in 2002 as mobile penetration in most of the European markets exceeded 80 percent, but The Yankee Group found a 12 percent rebound in 2003 when 129 million units were sold in Western Europe.

In China, handset shipments will swell 4.3 percent through 2004, settling into a compound annual growth rate of 10 percent over the next five years, according to In-Stat/MDR. Chinese handsets generated nearly $9 billion in revenue in 2003, with expectations pointing toward $16 billion by 2008.

In the U.S., the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) counts nearly 166 million wireless subscribers – marking a more than tenfold increase since 1993. The organization found that the U.S. wireless industry earned $87.6 billion in 2003 alone.

The Yankee Group points out that the mobile industry still defines “users” as individuals, which doesn’t distinguish between active and inactive users, and those with more than one mobile device.

A user can be more accurately defined by each individual mobile line or subscriber identity module (SIM) [define], says Yankee Group, since many people have more than one phone or other SIM-equipped devices such as PC cards and wireless PDAs.

Evidence of the multi-SIM scenario comes from Yankee Group’s survey of 3,000 connected European consumers, which found that 50 percent had one phone, 32 percent had two phones and 18 percent had three or more phones.

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