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The ITU's annual report on the global information society has revealed the key role played by mobile networks in bringing the populations of developing countries online: mobile broadband services now outnumber fixed by two to one and are in many countries cheaper than fixed broadband services.

According to the report "One promising development [over the past year] is the growth of mobile-broadband services. In developing countries, mobile-broadband services are more widely accessible and, in the case of low-volume packages, less costly than fixed-broadband Internet services. Mobile broadband is expected to boost Internet use, which stood at 32 percent globally and 24 percent in developing countries at end 2011."

It adds: "Mobile broadband continues to be the ICT service displaying the sharpest growth rates. Over the past year, growth in mobile-broadband services continued at 40 percent globally and 78 percent in developing countries. There are now twice as many mobile-broadband subscriptions as fixed-broadband subscriptions worldwide."

Brahima Sanou, director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau, which produces the ITU's annual 'Measuring the Information Society' report said: "The surge in numbers of mobile-broadband subscriptions in developing countries has brought the Internet to a multitude of new users.

"But despite the downward trend, prices remain relatively high in many low-income countries. For mobile broadband to replicate the mobile-cellular miracle and bring more people from developing countries online, 3G network coverage has to be extended and prices have to go down even further."

The report also highlights the growing role of developing countries in the global ICT economy. "Between 2007 and 2010, both telecom revenues and investment continued to grow by 22 percent in developing countries, whereas revenues stagnated in developed countries," it says.

"Developing countries are also increasingly attractive destinations for foreign direct investment (FDI) in telecommunications. By beginning 2011, nine of the top 20 telecom markets globally in terms of revenues were developing country markets – including Brazil, China, India and Mexico – and developing countries accounted for 35 percent of world telecommunication revenue."

ICT is also becoming an increasingly important component of the economies of individual developing nations. The report shows that in 2010, global exports of ICT goods accounted for 12 percent of world merchandise trade, and as much as 20 percent in developing countries.

The report contains two benchmarking tools to monitor information society developments worldwide. The ICT Development Index (IDI) ranks 155 countries' performance with regard to information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and uptake. The ICT Price Basket (IPB) is claimed to be "a unique metric that tracks and compares the cost and affordability of ICT services in more than 160 countries globally."

This year's edition of the report also includes new data and analyses on revenue and investment in the ICT sector and proposes a new methodology to measure the world's telecommunication capacity.

The 230 page report is available free and there is a 36 page executive summary also.  An edition containing the statistical tables of prices used to compute the ICT Price Basket with detailed price data for 161 countries broken down by cost of fixed telephone, mobile cellular and fixed broadband services, for the year 2011, costs CHF83 ($A85).

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Stuart Corner

 

Tracking the telecoms industry since 1989, Stuart has been awarded Journalist Of The Year by the Australian Telecommunications Users Group (twice) and by the Service Providers Action Network. In 2010 he received the 'Kester' lifetime achievement award in the Consensus IT Writers Awards and was made a Lifetime Member of the Telecommunications Society of Australia. He was born in the UK, came to Australia in 1980 and has been here ever since.

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