It’s a Mobile World

November 13, 2010

According to the International Telecommunications Union, by the end of 2010 there will be an estimated 5,3 billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide, including 940 million subscriptions to 3G services. If we compare those figures with those from just over 10 years ago in 1998, when more than half the world’s population had never made a phone call, we can barely start to grasp the magnitude of these technical advancements.

Access to mobile networks is now available to 90 percent of the world’s population and 80 percent of the population living in rural areas. On 2000 there was just about one billion voice landlines in operation around the world, and in just a decade, 5,3 billion people can now not only talk, but also text. The 940 million more privileged can talk, text and surf on their mobile devices, thanks to their subscriptions to 3G services.

Texting is definitely a favorite activity of mankind as a whole nowadays. The total number of SMS sent globally tripled between 2007 and 2010, from an estimated trillion to a staggering 6.1 trillion. That means that close to 200 000 text messages are being sent every second. In terms of money, assuming an average cost of USD 0.07 per SMS, there is an estimated USD 812 000 generated every minute (or around USD 14 000 every second). The Philippines (World’s Text Messaging Capital) and the United States combined accounted for 35% of all SMS sent in 2009.

In the developing world, mobile cellular penetration will reach 68 percent by the end of 2010, mainly driven by the Asia and the Pacific region. India and China alone are expected to add over 300 million mobile subscriptions by the end of the year. Meanwhile in the African region penetration rates will reach an estimated 41 percent at the end of 2010 (compared to 76 percent globally) leaving room for significant growth potential.

The developing world’s share of fixed (wired) broadband subscriptions is growing steadily, with an estimated 45% of total  global subscriptions by the end of 2010 (up from 42% five years earlier). However, places like Africa still lag far behind when it comes to fixed broadband, with a penetration rate of less than 1%.  Mobile networks are helping bridge that Internet access gap. The number of Internet users has doubled between 2005 and 2010, and is set to surpass the two billion mark, of which 1.2 billion will be in developing countries and using mobile devices instead of fixed lines.

Another interesting fact is that while in developing countries 72.4% of households have a TV, only 22.5% have a computer and only 15.8% have Internet access (compared to 98%, 71% and 65.6% respectively in developed countries). Perhaps Google TV, the new platform that provides television sets with access to all kinds of multimedia, applications and websites from the Internet, would be one of the most effective ways of connecting the population of those countries to the Internet.

Mobile VoIP is also growing in importance, with the number of global mobile voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) users expected to reach 107 million by 2012. More efficient handsets with faster data speeds are enabling VoIP on mobile networks, and WiFi is becoming more efficient at voice carriage, which will expand the offer of mobile VoIP services.

The use of high definition (HD) mobile handsets, which are virtually nonexistent in 2010, should begin its implementation worldwide during 2013 and 2014. Newer 3G infrastructure that has been deployed since 2005-06 can already use the new format and require only a software update and a changeover to HD handsets, although much of the older 3G infrastructure in more developed markets will have to be updated.

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