Mobile Networks Penetrate 90% Of World's Population

An International Telecommunication Union study also reports that almost 200,000 text messages are sent every second.

Esther Shein, Contributor

October 19, 2010

3 Min Read

There will be an estimated 5.3 billion mobile cellular subscriptions globally by the end of the year and 90% of the world's population now has access to mobile networks, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in its "The World in 2010" report.

Deployment of 3G has grown significantly in both developed and developing countries, with 143 countries offering 3G services in 2010 compared with 95 in 2007, the report from the United Nations (UN) agency said. Additionally, several countries have begun offering next-generation 4G services, including Sweden, Norway, the Ukraine, and the United States.

Between 2005 and 2010, the number of Internet users doubled, the ITU report said, with China being the largest market in the world at over 420 million users. The total number of Internet users will surpass two billion at the end of 2010, 1.2 billion of whom will be in developing countries. Access to the Internet at home has increased from 1.4 billion people in 2009 to 1.6 billion in 2010.

The report also found that the mobile market is reaching saturation levels and mobile cellular growth is slowing worldwide. From 2009 to 2010, there has been only a marginal growth of 1.6%, according to the ITU. In the Asia Pacific region, cellular penetration rates will grow to 68% by the end of the year, notably in India and China, which will have an estimated 300 million mobile subscriptions.

The 68% mobile phone penetration rate in developing countries is "higher than any other technology before,'' said Sami Al Basheer, director of the ITU's telecommunication development bureau, in a statement. "These countries have been innovative in adapting mobile technology to their particular needs and will be able to draw even greater benefits from broadband once adequate and affordable access is available."

One of the more significant findings was that the number of SMS text messages sent between 2007 and 2010 tripled globally from approximately 1.8 trillion to 6.1 trillion. That latter figure translates to almost 200,000 text messages being sent every second, the ITU said.

Online growth remains slow in developing countries, the report said. Only 21% of the population of developing countries is online, while 71% of the population of developed countries is online. Africa in particular, will reach only 9.6% penetration by the end of the year, which the ITU said is far behind the world average of 30% and the developing country average of 21%.

In other findings, fixed/wired broadband subscriptions have risen in both developed and developing countries. An estimated 555 million people globally will have fixed/wired broadband subscriptions, or an 8% penetration, by the end of 2010, up from 471 million, or a 6.9% penetration in 2009. However, in developing countries, penetration levels remain low, with only 4.4 subscriptions per 100 people compared with 24.6 in developed countries.

The ITU's Market Information and Statistics Division collected indicators from over 200 economies worldwide. The report was released Tuesday, on the eve of World Statistics Day, which is celebrated on Oct. 20 worldwide.

About the Author(s)

Esther Shein


Esther Shein has extensive experience writing and editing for both print and the web with a focus on business and technology as well as education and general interest features.

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