While the developed world is experiencing subscribers and connections growth stagnation, there is huge growth potential in the developing countries, especially in the Asia-Pacific and African regions. As fixed lines often remain underdeveloped and inaccessible to the majority of the population, there is a paradigm shift towards mobile phones.
With global mobile penetration reaching an all time high at 96 percent, almost half of the world’s population is using mobile communication. Globally, there were 3.4 billion unique mobile subscribers and 6.9 billion SIM connections in 2013, with an average of 1.8 active SIM cards per unique subscriber.
The number of mobile broadband connections has also grown astoundingly to well over two billion in 2013 from 364 million in 2009. This growth is expected to continue and India is predicted to be the second largest mobile broadband market by 2016, with 367 million connections, following China with 639 million connections.
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), 3G mobile network covers 45 percent of the world’s population in 159 countries. In addition, 4G technology is already available in some countries. Mobile manufacturing company, Ericsson, has forecasted that by 2017, 85 percent of the world’s population will be covered by high-speed mobile networks.
Higher speed networks and more advanced devices are enabling the growth of various applications such as video streaming, internet browsing and file downloads. At a global level, the rate of growth in data traffic is likely to surpass the growth in mobile connections.
Moreover, the Global System for Mobiles Association (GSMA) states that global mobile operators have spent over USD 1 trillion in the last six years. Investment has been focused both on improving network coverage and on facilitating the growth in mobile broadband connections. Going forward, telecom companies are expected to invest around USD 1.7 trillion by 2020.
The prospect of economic growth through mobiles is extremely bright, but it also has a range of new challenges. At a global level, one in six people will be over 60 in the next decade, which will have a tremendous impact on core public services such as healthcare at a time when there are likely to be ongoing pressures on government spending and mobile can help in delivering the health service with the use of m-Healthcare. Innovation in technology presents the opportunity to address these pressing needs of society. When coupled with innovations in big data analytics, cloud computing and 3D printing, the opportunity to connect the physical and the digital provides a unique platform to improve the quality of life and productivity.