Global mobile subscribers to hit 4B

By end-2008, the world will be home to 4 billion cellular subscribers, reaching a mobile penetration rate of 61 percent, says ITU.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

There will be some 4 billion mobile subscribers across the globe by late-2008, boosted mainly by strong growth in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) economies, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

In a statement released Thursday, the industry body noted that China exceeded the 600 million-mark in mid-2008 and is the world's largest mobile market. India is home to 296 million subscribers as of July 2008.

Describing the mobile market growth as "impressive", ITU said the number of cellular subscribers worldwide has been clocking in year-on-year average growth of 24 percent from 2000 to 2008. In fact, mobile penetration is expected to hit some 61 percent by end-2008.

But while the growth figures appear remarkable, the ITU cautioned that the numbers do not necessarily mean every other person in the world has a mobile--as the 61 percent penetration rate suggests. The statistics point to subscriptions, not people, so there may be double counting in economies where a mobile user may have multiple subscriptions.

"Also, operators' methods for counting active prepaid subscribers vary and often inflate the actual number of people that use a mobile phone," the ITU said.

In addition, mobile penetration rates remain significantly different among regions and countries.

The BRIC economies alone are expected to account for over 1.3 billion mobile subscribers by the end of the year, according to the ITU.

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