Mobile phone subs reach half the world’s population

Worldwide mobile phone subscriptions have reached 3.3 billion – equivalent to half the global population.

Mobile phone subs reach half the world's population

Since the first Nordic Mobile Telephony (NMT) networks were switched on in 1981 in Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Norway, mobile phones have become the consumer electronics sector with the largest volume of sales in the world.

“The mobile industry has constantly outperformed even the most optimistic forecasts for subscriber growth,” say Mark Newman, head of research at Informa, who announced the milestone.

“For children growing up today the issue is not whether they will get a mobile phone, it’s a question of when,” says Newman.

In recent years the industry has seen surging growth in outskirts of China and India, helped by constantly falling phone and call prices, with cellphone vendors already eyeing inroads into Africa’s outposts to maintain growth.

The Nordic start for mobile telephony was the basis for the success stories of Finnish Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson.

Fast growth in Asian wireless markets has since helped Korean firms Samsung and LG Electronics as well as China’s ZTE take their place among the top six cellphone vendors globally.

But although mobile subscriptions have reached the equivalent of 50% of the population, this does not mean that half the people in the world now have a mobile phone, since Informa said 59 countries have mobile penetration of more than 100% – where some owners have more than one phone.

“The economic difference between the more mature markets and those in developing countries is highlighted by the vast differences in operators’ revenues per user,” says Informa.

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