A 5bn milestone: Two-thirds of Earth’s population now have mobile phones

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A Maasai warrior in Kenya. Image: Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

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The world is becoming increasingly mobile-centred, with China, India and Africa providing real growth opportunities.

Two-thirds of the global population – or 5bn people – are now connected to a mobile service.

This is a significant milestone for the mobile industry and a considerable phenomenon when you consider that this market is only around 30 years old.

‘Today, mobile is a truly global platform, delivering connectivity and, perhaps more importantly, social and economic opportunities to citizens in all corners of the world’
– MATS GRANRYD

GSMA Intelligence said it took four years to add the latest 1bn subscribers, with more than half (55pc) of mobile subscribers now based in the Asia-Pacific region.

Mats Granryd, director general of trade group GSMA, hailed the milestone as a “tremendous achievement for an industry that is only a few decades old” and said it reflected the billions of dollars spent by mobile operators on networks, services and spectrum through the years.

“Today, mobile is a truly global platform, delivering connectivity and, perhaps more importantly, social and economic opportunities to citizens in all corners of the world,” he said.

Mobile growth to accelerate as we hit the 5G era

Overall, unique global mobile subscribers will increase to 5.7bn by the end of the decade, representing almost 75pc of the world population, according to the GSMA Intelligence forecast.

Granryd added that future subscriber growth opportunities will be focused on connecting “rural, low-income populations”, while mature markets will see an evolution to capture new opportunities and provide “the platform for a new digital world as we enter the 5G era”.

China is the world’s largest mobile market, accounting for more than 1bn of the world’s subscribers, with India the second-largest at 730m.

India is tipped to account for the largest share of growth by the end of the decade, with GSMA Intelligence predicting that the country will generate around 30pc of new unique subscribers by 2020.

Europe, meanwhile, is the highest-penetrated region of the world today, where 86pc of citizens subscribe to a mobile service. The region’s unique mobile subscriber base stands at 465m.

At the other end of the spectrum, Africa is the least-penetrated region, with 44pc of the population and 436m unique subscribers.

A Maasai warrior in Kenya. Image: Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com