A new report issued by the International Telecommunications Union finds that well over half the people on planet Earth are mobile phone subscribers: some 4.6 billion people were estimated to be mobile phone subscribers at the end of 2009, which corresponds to 67 percent of the entire human population. The number represents phenomenal growth for the mobile industry: in the year 2002, about 1 billion people were signed up to use cell phones.
The report collated data for mobile phone, landline, and Internet usage in 159 countries, and found that access to communications technology is becoming less expensive, with the average cost of services dropping by 15 percent globally between 2008 and 2009. Compared to citizen’s average incomes, communication technology costs are lowest in Macao, Hong Kong, and Singapore, with Kuwait, Luxembourg, and the United States following close behind.
Developing nations are also seeing very strong growth in mobile use: in 2009, mobile phone penetration in developing countries passed 50 percent for the first time, with an estimated 57 percent of inhabitants using a mobile phone.
In contrast, while Internet use is expanding, it’s doing so at a slower pace: only about 1.7 billion people (or about a quarter of the world’s population) have Internet access. That’s up from about 11 percent of the world’s population in 2002, but about 80 percent of people living in poor and developing nations have no Internet access.
“One important challenge in bringing more people online is the limited availability of fixed broadband access,” the report said. In developing nations, fixed broadband Internet access remains unaffordable for all but the wealthiest individuals… except in China, which alone accounts for about one third of people in the developing world who have Internet access.