The latest mobile subscriber forecasts from ABI Research show that worldwide GSM subscriber growth is slowing and is expected to stop by the middle of next year. However, 3G subscriptions are increasing, with 2009 seeing year-on-year mobile broadband growth of 43%. At the end of December 2009, there were 271 million mobile broadband subscribers worldwide.
Overall, global cellular subscription numbers passed 4.35 billion at the end of 2009, a 10.4% increase from 2008. Global cellular penetration is now estimated to be 66% – although this varies between 140% in Western Europe, 93% in North America and 52.5% in the Asia-Pacific region.
ABI analyst Bhavya Khanna said "There is a very real prospect that within the next five to ten years, cellular subscription penetration will pass through 200% in a number of developed countries. USB dongles, embedded modems in netbooks, laptops, tablets and consumer electronics will test the definition of ‘mobile cellular subscriber’. Operators will need to evolve to multiple devices per subscription to retain customers."
Western Europe accounts for 13% of the world's mobile phone customers. Most mobile users are in the Asia-Pacific region, which accounts for 45% of the global cellular market. North America has 7.2% of the world's mobile customers.