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When mobile phone came into being in the late 90s, nobody imagined that twenty years down the line, nearly two-third of the world would be using them and even further advanced technology. GSMA intelligence, the organization that takes care of interests of the global mobile networks, recently claimed that 5 billion people are now under the radar of mobile technology.
They have a tracker which provides real-time updates on the total connections running as well as number of unique subscribers. Recently, the figure touched the five billion mark in terms of individual users, prompting the observation. However, the other aspects of the statistics is far more fascinating as the total number of connections is surprisingly high, nearly 8 billion. It means, there are more number of connections than human beings.
A staggering figure
Given that a connection is always machine to machine, the number of real connections is slightly less. But, it still seems extremely high. Of course, a unique individual is someone who possesses multiple SIM cards. GSMA states that it is the result of the billions of dollars that have been poured in to create reliable mobile networks around the globe and the amount of combined effort given by all the operators functioning around the world.
Mobile network is no longer regional, national or even continental. It is a global phenomenon and the connectivity is no longer dependent on your location. More importantly, such figures indicate that mobile is not simply a device of connectivity but a mode of availing social as well as economic benefits. Perhaps this is the most decisive factor in determining the reach of mobile networks.
The progress of the statistics
Of course, Rome was not built in a day, and neither did this commendable figure materialize out of thin air. As the data shows, the rise of five billion has happened in leaps and bounds since 2003. It was the year when the number of unique connections achieved the one billion mark. Within four years, it reached two billion in 2007. Then, the two period of three years saw a jump to three and four billion in 2010 and 2013.
Hence, the last billion took four years to complete. It only goes to show that the growth curve still has some distance to travel. At 67 percent penetration, mobile phones surely seem pervasive, but it is not so. In Europe, the penetration is a staggering 80 percent, while in Africa, it is around a surprising 44 percent. It means that majority of people in Africa don’t have, or more plausibly, cannot afford a mobile phone.
India as the biggest potential market
India is only showing 54 percent penetration as of now, but it will soon show its mettle with its huge population. Currently, it is the second biggest growing market and it will contribute to 30 percent of the growth when the number of unique connections will jump up to 5.7 billion. Since the focus is on rural populations with low income, sustainable as well as affordable solutions have to be built so that underserved communities get access to these facilities.
In Europe on the other hand, where growth has reached a dead end or has slowed down to a considerable extent, operators tend to focus on providing more value with their networks and services.