Home Your IT Mobility 61 percent of global population now using mobile phones

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The International Telecommunication Union does not make predictions lightly, which is why you have to sit up and take notice when it announces there will be some 4 billion mobile phone subscribers globally before the year is out.

The International Telecommunication Union Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure has announced that the total number of worldwide mobile cellular subscribers will reach 4 billion before the end of 2008.

Or, to put it another way, that means a global penetration level of 61 percent for mobile phone subscriptions.

Compare that to a figure of just 12 percent in the year 2000 and you can appreciate how we have become a cellphone crazy planet in a very short time indeed.

Dr Toure, speaking in New York where he participated in UN Private Sector Forums addressing the global food crisis and the role of technological innovation in meeting Millennium Development Goals, pointed out just how rapid this growth now is.

The global subscription penetration hit the 50 percent mark only early this year, and the ITU is confident it will have added an extra 10 percent before the year is out.

"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 it is a viable business opportunity" said Dr Toure.

Of course, while that 60 percent penetration statistic would tend to suggest that every other person on the planet has a mobile phone, that isn't the reality of the situation.

For a start, the figures represent subscriptions and not people. So you have to take 'double counting' into account as many people have more than one phone, more than one subscription.

The ITU does point out, to balance this, that subscribers in developing countries often share their handsets between many people.

So, looking more closely at the numbers, what is the main driver for this remarkable growth? Actually, the question should be where are the drivers, to be honest.

The answer, according to the ITU, would appear to be Brazil, Russia, India and China which have had an increasingly important impact in terms of population, resources and global GDP share.

These economies alone, says the ITU, are expected to account for more than 1.3 billion mobile subscribers before the year is out. Indeed, China hit 600 million in the middle of the year on its own.

What are the growth figures for other countries, and what opportunities and problems does this growth bring with it? Find out on page 2...

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