The GSMA unveiled results of a global, multi-year study that examines not only the total number of mobile connections, but also the number of individual mobile subscribers, defined as the unique users subscribed to mobile services. Undertaken by the GSMA’s Wireless Intelligence team over three years and across 39 developed and developing markets, the research found the following:
- By Q4 2012, total mobile connections will stand at 6.8 billion including machine-to machine (M2M) communications, or 5.9 billion excluding M2M and inactive SIM cards.
- With consumers using an average of 1.85 SIM cards each, the total number of mobile subscribers globally will stand at 3.2 billion by Q4 2012, growing to 4 billion within the next five years.
- Global penetration based on total connections is set to exceed 100% in 2013, with mobile subscriber penetration standing at only 45% by the end of 2012.
- Europe has the highest mobile penetration in the world, with countries such as Denmark, Finland, Germany and the UK already averaging close to 90% subscriber penetration.
- Africa has the lowest penetration, with only one out of three people in the region subscribing to mobile services in 2012, thought that figure is expected to increase to 40% by 2017.
- In Asia, subscriber penetration stands 40%, and is expected to grow to 49% by 2017. In China alone subscriber penetration will grow from 43% to 52% over the next five years.
In addition, the study also found that future mobile subscriber growth will be driven by demand among currently “unconnected” populations in developing countries, which the research estimates to be 1.8 billion people throughout the next five years. By 2017, subscriber penetration in developed countries is set to have passed 80% and growth in these markets is expected to slow. In contrast, subscriber penetration across developing economies is forecast to increase from 39% in 2012 to 47% in 2017, and will be the largest factor spurring the global growth of mobile over the next five years.