We all know that the mobile phone is here to stay, but who could have guessed that – according to the United Nations – its growth is far outpacing predictions to the extent that more than half the world's population will have one by the end of this year?
The UN's International Telecom Union has found that year end will see 4 billion of the planet's 6.7 billion citizens with mobile phones. That represents 61 per cent of the population.
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By contrast, at the start of 2000 just 12 per cent of the world had a mobile contract.
The UN says that a large part of the rapid growth is occurring in countries were landlines are scarce or of low quality, making the mobile option attractive.
GSM the winner
Massive growth is being seen in Africa (27 per cent annual growth), the Middle East (25 per cent), and Asia-Pacific (24 per cent). Naturally, most new handsets contain GSM chips, with the GSM Association pointing out that it expects 600 million new sales this year, generally of cheap, low-end phones.
Operators in saturated Western markets, on the other hand, have for some time been turning to advanced handsets and increasing data traffic as a way to boost revenue.