Global mobile subscriptions are set to reach 4,6-billion by the end of this year, with mobile broadband users expected to top 600-million, having overtaken fixed broadband subscriptions in 2008.
These are among ITU’s latest statistics, published in The World in 2009: ICT facts and figures, which reveal rapid ICT growth in many world regions in everything from mobile cellular subscriptions to fixed and mobile broadband, and from TV to computer penetration – with mobile technology acting as a key driver.
Mobile technologies are making major inroads toward extending ICTs in developing countries, with a number of nations launching and commercially offering IMT2000/3G networks and services. But ITU’s statistics also highlight important regional discrepancies, with mobile broadband penetration rates still low in many African countries and other developing nations.
More than a quarter of the world’s population is online and using the Internet, as of 2009. Ever-increasing numbers are opting for high-speed Internet access, with fixed broadband subscriber numbers more than tripling from 150-million in 2004 to an estimated 500-million by the end of 2009.
Rapid high-speed Internet growth in the developed world contrasts starkly with the state of play in the developing world. In Africa, for example, there is only one fixed broadband subscriber for every 1 000 inhabitants, compared with Europe where there are some 200 subscribers per 1 000 people. The relative price for ICT services (especially broadband) is highest in Africa, the region with the lowest income levels. The report finds that China has the world’s largest fixed broadband market, overtaking its closest rival, the US, at the end of 2008.
ITU estimates show that three-quarters of households now own a television set and over a quarter of people globally – about 1,9billion – now have access to a computer at home. This demonstrates the huge market potential in developing countries, where TV penetration is already high, for converged devices, as the mobile, television and Internet worlds collide.
Dr Hamadoun Touré, secretary-general of the ITU, says: "ICTs are vital within developing countries to ensure that ordinary people can fully participate in the knowledge economy of the 21st century. We have seen a positive impact on services such as health and education in markets where ICT growth has been strong."
Sami Al Basheer, director of theTelecommunication Development Bureau, adds: "We are encouraged to see so much growth across developed and developing regions, but there is still a large digital divide, and an impending broadband divide, which needs to be addressed urgently."