The world's mobile subscriber base reached six billion by the end of 2011, meaning roughly 86 of every 100 people now have a mobile phone, according to new figures released by the ITU.
The data from the ITU’s annual report “Measuring the Information Society 2012” shows that with continuous double-digit gains, developing countries now account for the lion’s share of market growth. China and India each account for one billion subscriptions.
South Korea is ranked as the world’s most advanced ICT economy, followed by Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland. Of the ten top-ranked countries, eight are from Europe, and two from Asia-Pacific.
The report also shows that the ICT sector has become a major contributor to economic growth. In 2010, global revenues from telecommunication services reached $1.5 trillion (€1.1 trillion) - representing 2.4% of the world’s gross domestic product. Telecom capex meanwhile amounted to more than $241 billion, or an estimated 2% of the world’s total gross fixed capital formation.
By the start of 2011, nine of the top 20 telecom markets globally in terms of revenues were developing country markets – including Brazil, China, India and Mexico – and developing countries accounted for 35% of world telecommunication revenue.
At the same time, ITU research and data suggest that developing countries need a relatively higher level of investment in advanced ICT services to fuel growth, mainly because ICT infrastructure levels are still limited.
Mobile broadband continues to be the most promising, and fastest growing, ICT service. User numbers grew 40% globally over the past year, and 78% in developing countries, the figures show. There are now twice as many mobile broadband subscriptions as fixed-broadband subscriptions worldwide. In developing countries, mobile broadband services are more widely accessible and, in the case of low-volume packages, less costly than fixed-broadband internet services, the report says.
Meanwhile, the price of global ICT services dropped 30% between 2008 and 2011. The biggest decrease was in fixed-broadband services, where average prices have come down by 75%. While prices in developed economies have stabilized, those in developing countries continue to fall at double-digit rates, the ITU notes.
That said, fixed-broadband services still remain too expensive in most developing countries: by end 2011, the price of a basic, monthly fixed-broadband package represented over 40% of monthly gross national income per capita. This compares to 1.7% in developed economies.