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Emerging markets drive mobile subscriptions over the 5 billion mark

Last week marked yet another milestone in communications when the five billionth mobile subscription was added to the count, thanks largely to emerging markets like China, India, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

New data released by Ericsson this week reveals that the main drivers of growth continue to be Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, which together accounted for 80 percent of global subscription net additions in the first half of 2010. Today there are 450 million mobile subscriptions in Africa as compared to the year 2000, when there were about 16 million subscriptions, less than the amount of users in Ghana today.

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Mobile broadband subscriptions are growing at a similar pace and are expected to amount to more than 3.4 billion by 2015 (up from 360 million in 2009). Over 100 million of these will come from sub-Saharan Africa, where 80% of all people accessing the internet do so using their mobile device.

For some it’s a question of convenience, for others it’s a necessity. Mobile subscriptions allow people who don’t have access to a bank or a bank account to transfer money; fishermen and farmers to get quick updates on sudden changes in the weather forecast, villagers to get local medical care, while children can access online education. It facilitates daily operations of small businesses and drives economic growth.

“The use of mobile broadband is growing quickly, especially driven by consumers powered with smart phones and connected laptops,” says Lars Lindén, Head of Ericsson Region sub-Saharan Africa. Ericsson envisions 50 billion connected devices by the year 2020.

The communication landscape is changing rapidly and in December 2009, another milestone was reached when the amount of data traffic carried over mobile networks exceeded the amount of traffic generated from voice calls.

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