As of today there are more than 2.5 billion mobile phone connections in the world, a 25pc increase in the space of 12 months.
The figures come from Wireless Intelligence, a venture between the UK research house Ovum and the GSM Association, a global trade group that represents more than 600 mobile phone operators.
Over the four quarters to the end of September 2006, some 484 million connections were added to the worldwide total. Asia-Pacific accounted for more than two fifths of these with 41pc. Combined, eastern Europe and Latin America accounted for 30pc of the growth, with a further 10pc of the connections coming from Africa. The remainder was carved up roughly equally between the more mature markets of western Europe, North America and the Middle East, Wireless Intelligence said.
“The cellular industry took 20 years to reach one billion connections, three years to reach two billion connections and is on target to reach its third billion in a period of just over two years,” said Martin Garner, director of Wireless Intelligence. “Worldwide growth is currently running at over 40 million new connections per month — the highest volume of growth the market has ever seen.”
Over the past 12 months the top 10 countries for volume of new connections were China, India, Russia, USA, Pakistan, Ukraine, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria and Bangladesh. Between them, these countries account for over half of the growth in the world cellular market over the last 12 months.
Wireless Intelligence said that the next half billion new connections will take a little longer to come on stream than the previous increase. It forecast a 16-month wait so that the three billion mark should be reached around the end of 2007.
The caveat to all this is that the number of connections is higher than the actual number of real-life subscribers. This is because some users have more than one mobile phone or because when prepaid customers move from one operator to another, their account remains active on the original operator’s database for a while.
By Gordon Smith