The world now has 5-billion mobile subscribers, and counting

GSMA Intelligence reports that the number of mobile subscribers around the world hit the 5-billion mark this week – a massive milestone for the industry.

In essence, this means that two thirds of the global population is now connected, but what does this actually mean in the greater scheme of things?

Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA, explains.

“Reaching the 5-billion subscriber milestone is a tremendous achievement for an industry that is only a few decades old, and reflects the many billions of dollars that mobile operators have invested in networks, services and spectrum over many years,” said Granryd.

The significant aspect, perhaps, is that the last 1-billion of those subscribers signed up to mobile networks during the last four years. The ‘need’ for access to a mobile service provider now trumps the ‘desire’ to be connected.

“Today mobile is a truly global platform, delivering connectivity and, perhaps more importantly, social and economic opportunities to citizens in all corners of the world,” said Granryd.

“This massive reach allows the mobile industry to be a key player in delivering global initiatives such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.

So, where is the this growth happening, exactly? Well, in truth it is happening all over the world, but Asia has become a major driver of that growth – China and India to be specific. The figure being bandied about for India is in the region of 730-million.

Authorities do not think this rapid growth will end here though. The new target is the world’s rural base.

“Subscriber growth opportunities over the coming years will be focused on connecting mainly rural, low-income populations; operators are developing a range of sustainable solutions to deliver affordable connectivity to underserved communities,” said Granryd.

“Meanwhile, in mature markets where subscriber growth is slowing, operators are evolving their business models to capture increasing value within the expanding mobile ecosystem, and providing the platform for a new digital world as we enter the 5G era.”