The GSMA, the trade organisation that represents more than a thousand companies in the mobile industry, has published new research that shows the industry still has plenty of growth potential.
Total mobile connections worldwide are expected to reach 6.8 billion by the fourth quarter of this year. When machine-to machine (M2M) communications and inactive SIM cards are excluded, the figure is 5.9 billion connections.
It’s found that consumers currently use an average of 1.85 SIM cards each, which means the total number of mobile subscribers will reach 3.2 billion by Q4 2012. Subscriber numbers are expected to hit 4 billion within the next five years.
Anne Bouverot, Director General at the GSMA, said “This research, for the first time, highlights the difference between mobile connections and individual mobile subscribers, and points to a significant growth opportunity for the mobile industry as we continue to connect the world's population. By identifying inactive SIMs and multiple SIM ownership, we have developed the most accurate measurement of the global mobile subscriber base, which shows that only 45 per cent of the world's population has subscribed to mobile services.”
“In developing markets, where there is clearly an opportunity for growth for the mobile industry, SIM per user patterns are influenced by cost-conscious, low-usage consumers who tend to accumulate prepaid SIM cards depending on the latest and most affordable prepaid tariffs. In developed markets, SIM per user patterns are influenced by the ownership of smartphones, tablets and other devices connected to mobile broadband networks and through the wider availability of shared data plans.”
The GSMA’s study found that future subscriber growth will come from currently ‘unconnected’ populations in developing countries, particularly people in rural areas. Subscriber penetration across developing economies is expected to increase from 39% this year to 47% in 2017. As a contrast, 87% of the UK’s population currently has at least one phone; the figure is expected to reach 89% in 2017.