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Analyst predicts 4 billion mobile subs by year end

There will be 4 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, by the end of this year, according to analyst forecasts released Monday.

Assuming that the world’s four billionth mobile subscription is activated during the fourth quarter, analyst house and telecoms.com parent, Informa Telecoms & Media, says that it will have taken just five full quarters for the last billion net additions to be won.

Global mobile penetration – the number of mobile subscriptions worldwide – reached 50 per cent in November last year, but this does not mean that over half of the nearly 7 billion people in the world now have a mobile phone.

A large number of more mature markets worldwide already have in excess of 100 per cent mobile penetration, as users sign up for more than one subscription. But emerging markets are the engine for much of the rapid growth, with tremendous consumer demand seen in developing countries like China and India, which each delivered more than 50 million new mobile subscriptions in the last six months alone.

But this growth rate is set to slow, with Informa forecasts suggesting the five billionth subscription will be signed during the final months of 2011. By this time, worldwide mobile penetration will be in excess of 70 per cent, and only in Africa will penetration remain below 50 per cent.

“It is clear that the mobile industry will see a slowdown in growth – it is simply untenable for the extraordinary growth witnessed over the last 18 months to continue,” said Informa principal analyst, Nick Jotischky. “Even taking the fastest growing regions of Asia Pacific and Africa into account, where we will see well over 20 per cent year on year growth in subscription numbers this year, our forecasts suggest that this growth rate will slow to below 10 per cent in 2010.”

In anticipation of this slowdown, the larger operators such as Vodafone, China Mobile and Telenor are reconsidering their strategic thinking, and while the extension of basic mobile connectivity to lower income groups remains high on the agenda, increasingly so too is mobile broadband.

“Mobile broadband services, and in particular the evolution of HSPA, have reinvented the business case for 3G technologies and as a result mobile internet services are helping to provide operators with new business streams, particularly within higher-income groups,” Jotischky said.

“Emerging markets are no longer quite as attractive as they once were as the race to extend rural network coverage has given the ultimate challenge to operators – how best to reach out to low income groups and still make a profit. It is no longer just about the quantity of subscriptions, but also the value that can be attributed to these subscriptions,” he added.


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