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Mobile phone users top 4.6 billion this year

Ian Grant

More than 4.6 billion people will have a mobile phone account by the end of the year if present growth rates continue, says the International Telecomunications Union (ITU).

The ITU's latest statistics, published yesterday, revealed rapid growth in information and communications technologiesin most parts of the world. Consumers were taking up everything from mobile cellular subscriptions to fixed and mobile broadband, and from TVs to computers, with mobile technology acting as a key driver, especially in developing countries.

The data showed that mobile penetration continued to grow. Global mobile subscriptions was expected to reach 4.6 billion by the end of the year, and mobile broadband subscriptions to top 600 million in 2009, having overtaken fixed broadband subscribers in 2008, the ITU said.

Mobile technologies were extending ICT in developing countries. A number had launched commercial IMT2000/3G networks and services, the ITU said. But mobile broadband penetration rates were still low in many African countries and other developing nations, it said.

More than a quarter of the world's people had access to the internet, it said. More and more were choosing high-speed internet access. Fixed broadband subscribers more than trebled from 150 million in 2004 to an estimated 500 million by the end of 2009.

But the "digital divide" between developed and undeveloped countries persisted, it said. Africa had only one fixed broadband subscriber for every 1,000 inhabitants, but Europe had some 200 subscribers per 1,000 people. This was due to local prices, which were the highest in the world relative to income, it said.

The report found that China was now the world's largest fixed broadband market, overtaking the US at the end of 2008.


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