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Worldwide penetration to break 50%

Figures released by research house The Mobile World on Wednesday this week show that global mobile penetration will break the 50 per cent barrier during 2007.

The firm cited global connection figures of 2.84 billion at the end of the first quarter 2007. This represents an increase of more than 135 million on the year end 2006 figure, and translates into an uptake rate of more than1,000 new additions each minute.

The firm has calculated that the first quarter of this year was the third most successful quarter the industry has ever experienced in terms of sign ups, and by far the strongest first quarter in the industry’s history. Mobile penetration in Europe now exceeds 100 per cent, the firm said, with 666 million connections.

The Mobile World predicted that subscriptions would top 3.25 billion by the end of 2007, taking global penetration to more than 50 per cent.

“The mobile telecommunications industry continues to set new records, driven by huge demand, especially in India, China and Africa. And the growth rate is still accelerating,” said John Tysoe, co-founder and principal analyst at The Mobile World.

“It took over 20 years to connect the first billion subscribers, but only 40 months to connect the second billion. The 3 billion milestone will be passed in July 2007, just two years on. By the end of the year, the global mobile base will exceed 3.25 billion connections, or over half the world’s population,” he said.

But figures such as these can be misleading, and 50 per cent penetration does not mean that the digital divide is half bridged. Multiple SIM ownership is prevalent in many markets, particularly among low end prepay users and high end corporate subscribers, and this distorts the penetration picture.

In Russia, as telecoms.com’s sister title, MCI, reported in May, penetration rates in St Petersburg and Moscow stood at 133 per cent and 145 per cent respectively in mid-2006. Such high rates have been driven by many users having two or three SIM cards.

Meanwhile, corporate users in all markets might often have a business phone, a data card, a personal phone and a Blackberry, pushing penetration rates upwards.


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