Mobile phones are now a widespread technology, having rapidly disseminated over the past two decades to go from novelty to ubiquity to become near essential devices that in themselves have spawned entire industries. Of course, with the rise of the smartphone, these handheld devices seem set to overtake even PCs with the number of users and according to a recent study conducted by the UN, the number of mobile phone users in the world may not only outdo the number of PCs, but even possibly the number of people in the world, as according to the study, there are around 6 billion mobile phone subscribers in the world, with the Earth’s present population being 7 billion.
The figure, which was a part of a detailed report commissioned by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), was compiled by the end of 2011 and it is very likely that number has indeed risen. Titled "Measuring the Information Society 2012", the report looks at 155 countries and sees just how many people have access to and use of information and communication technology (ICT).
The report was based solely on the number of mobile SIM cards in circulation and not those that were used in tablet PCs or laptops. The head of the ITU’s data division, Susan Teltscher, explained, "We count SIM cards, not the number of devices or people, so if one person has two SIM cards in one device, it counts as two subscriptions; and we count monthly subscriptions as well."
According to the report, the largest number of mobile phone subscribers is in China, where around a billion subscriptions were found. The report shows that in developed countries, up to 70 percent of the populations are online, while in developing countries, the figure is only 24 percent. The highest ICT Development Index (IDI) value was achieved by South Korea, followed mainly by European countries such as Denmark, Iceland, Finland and the Netherlands. On the other end of the spectrum were mainly African countries such as Chad, CAR and Niger being the bottom most.
With the advent of smartphones and mobile internet connectivity, the number of people online has increased considerably with there being twice as many mobile broadband connections than fixed ones.
Speaking about this, director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau Brahima Sanou, said, "The surge in numbers of mobile-broadband subscriptions in developing countries has brought the internet to a multitude of new users. But despite the downward trend, prices remain relatively high in many low-income countries. For mobile broadband to replicate the mobile-cellular miracle and bring more people from developing countries online, 3G network coverage has to be extended and prices have to go down even further."