It’s not all plain sailing, though, with the Association noting that penetration levels in China and India – the region’s largest markets by population – are barely over 60%, while countries including Pakistan and Bangladesh struggle even to achieve that figure.
Global mobile connections are on track to hit six billion by end-November, the GSM Association (GSMA) forecasts, with growth fuelled by rising penetration in Asia Pacific.
Heavy investment in infrastructure is fuelling the rise of Asia Pacific, which the Association predicts will account for three billion connections alone by 1Q12, nearly two years earlier than previously forecast. The region is tipped to grow at twice the speed of Europe and North America through 2015, when Asia Pac connections will total 4.1 billion.
“Asia Pacific is one of the world’s fastest-growing mobile markets, through an impressive combination of investment and innovation,” says Tom Phillips, the GSMA’s chief government and regulatory affairs officer, adding. “China alone currently has 940 million total mobile connections, exceeding the total number of connections in Europe and the US combined.”
The GSMA notes that Asian carriers have typically invested 16.3% of their revenues in capex per annum since 2002, driving penetration from 12% a decade ago to 78% today. Carriers in the region are also benefitting from higher sales of prepaid services – 84% of all connections are pre-pay compared to 66% in Europe and 15% in North America -, innovative network sharing deals, and a lack of fixed line infrastructure.