More than five billion wireless subscriptions will be active by the end of this month, equivalent to nearly three in four people on the planet, iSuppli predicts.
Subs are expected to increase by another 100 million to 74.5% of the world's population by the year-end, the research firm said, as the global installed base of wireless devices hits 4.9 billion, with the remainder accounted for by multiple SIMs and M2M systems.
Subscriber numbers are expected to grow to 5.5 billion in 2011 and by nearly a billion more between 2012 and 2014 to hit 6.4 billion.
“Wireless communication now has spread to every nation, every age and every income level, becoming a basic staple like food, clothing and shelter,” iSuppli senior director and principal wireless analyst Dr Jagdish Rebello said.
“If the importance of an event can be measured by the number of people it affects, then the proliferation of wireless communications stands out as one of the most significant phenomena in the history of technology.”
But penetration varies wildly by area, with figures as low as 50% in the Africa and the Middle East region contrasting with 157.6% in Western Europe.
The sheer size of the installed base for wireless devices has led to an upheaval in markets including software and components, Rebello said.
“The focus of the global technology supply chain has shifted away from the slower-growing computer market toward fast-expanding wireless-oriented platforms,” he said.
iSuppli predicts the market for preloaded mobile applications will grow to $7.7 billion (€5.8 billion) in 2014, from $4.4 billion today.
The wireless semiconductor market is expected to swell at a CAGR of 7.1% to $80.2 billion over the same period – compared to the 2.6% growth expected for the data processing semiconductor market.