Global mobile subscriptions have reached a milestone as the count recently topped five billion global subscribers, with a growth rate of two million additions daily.
The Africa and Asia-Pacific regions together accounted for 80% of global subscription net additions in the first half of 2010. This is according to telecoms tech provider Ericsson.
The successful growth rate, says the company, is attributed to emerging markets like Nigeria, Zimbabwe, China and India.
Particularly in Africa, there are currently 450 million mobile subscriptions, compared to figures in 2000, when there were about 16 million subscriptions – less than the amount of users in Ghana alone today.
The figures also show mobile broadband subscriptions are growing at a similar pace, says Ericsson. It points to another milestone reached in December last year, in which the amount of data traffic carried over mobile networks exceeded the amount of traffic generated from voice calls.
To this end, mobile broadband subscriptions are expected to reach over 3.4 billion by 2015, states the company. Over 100 million of these will come from sub-Saharan Africa.
The cellphone and other mobile devices play a significant role for people living in rural areas across Africa, who are likely to have a cellphone, rather than a PC or laptop.
“Mobile broadband is uniquely positioned to stimulate economic growth and welfare in areas that lack adequate fixed-line broadband infrastructures – assisting to close the digital divide in Africa,” states Aingharan Kanagaratnam, head of engagement for mobile broadband at Ericsson sub-Saharan Africa.
Studies show that soon 80% of people in the world accessing the Internet will do so using their mobile device and this is already the case in Africa. With more broadband comes more opportunity, not only for SA, but the African continent, and those living and operating here, he continues.
“With broadband, the telecommunications industry has an opportunity to create a world in which all people can have affordable access to basic services that can improve livelihood, enable access to healthcare and education, provide information and entertainment, and more – a world in which everyone can take part in a borderless and global information society,” notes Kanagaratnam.
Broadband access helps promote equal opportunities for everyone, he opines. Once people have a broadband connection, their geographic location becomes less of a barrier to social and economic inclusion.
Kanagaratnam argues that mobile broadband makes it easier for people to live and work everywhere, and especially in rural areas – supporting local development, avoiding unnecessary migration and improving national socio-geographic structures.
There are challenges, but Africa can look forward to mobile broadband changing the way it communicates, operates and infiltrates, he states.
“As devices become more available, costs continue to be driven down by regulation and competition, broadband connectivity is increased and services more widespread, Africans can finally benefit from 'always available' connectivity,” concludes Kanagaratnam.