Commentary

ABI: Five Billion Mobile Users Worldwide

Africa-Mobile-

A new study by ABI Research today confirms that mobile subscriptions worldwide passed the 5 billion mark in the second quarter. The crossing of that dramatic threshold had been predicted earlier in the year, and Ericsson estimated the 5 billion mark was reached in July.

That's the kind of number that could make a mobile marketer drool: a phone for seemingly every man, woman and child on the planet. (Actual world population is 6.7 billion.) Most of that growth is coming in emerging markets, though, where most U.S. mobile advertisers haven't yet ventured, such as India, Indonesia and China.

Africa led the way with 4% growth between the first and second quarter of 2010. ABI said the continent's low mobile penetration to date is attracting global service providers such as Vodafone and India's Bharti to build up wireless infrastructure in Africa.

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But what about developed markets in the U.S., Europe and Japan, where mobile saturation has already been reached?

The report says the introduction of high-speed 4G data technologies such as WiMax and LTE will ensure that subscription growth stays strong even in "hyper-saturated" regions. Jake Saunders, ABI's vice president of research, pointed in particular to the successful launch of the HTC Evo 4G from Sprint, running on the WiMax network built by Clearwire (in which Sprint is a majority owner.)

ABI expects mobile subscriptions to reach 6.4 billion by 2015, of which 169 million will be to 4G technologies. Both AT&T and Verizon Wireless this week touted their roll-outs of 4G networks this week and growth in mobile data use via smartphones and other devices in third-quarter earnings reports this week.

AT&T said its 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) trials are currently underway in Dallas and Baltimore, with an expected launch in mid-2011 to reach 70 million to 75 million customers by the end of next year. Verizon plans to launch its 4G LTE network in 38 metropolitan markets covering 110 million people by year's end. The company expects to complete the rollout for all areas where it now offers 3G service by the end of 2013.

Thanks to the iPhone, AT&T said more than half (57%) of its postpaid, or contract, customers have smartphones, while 23% of Verizon's contract subscribers do. Of course, Verizon should see that proportion increase with the expected arrival of the iPhone next year.

Mobile data revenue for AT&T in the quarter grew 30.5% from a year ago and 26.3% for Verizon. For the U.S. carriers, it's all about getting people to upgrade to more sophisticated devices and data services to boost revenues. But with 5 billion mobile subscribers worldwide, the 285 million U.S. subscribers the operators are battling over somehow don't seem like such a huge market anymore.

3 comments about "ABI: Five Billion Mobile Users Worldwide ".
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  1. Frank Reed from Marketing Pilgrim, October 22, 2010 at 4:49 p.m.

    I find it hard to believe that 75% of every man woman and child on the planet has a mobile device. I have 5 people in my house and we are very Internet savvy and only 60% of my household has a mobile device.

    Research and its claims sometimes cross the line and this looks like one of them. Just because it's hype doesn't mean it has anything to do with the truth.

  2. Robert Formentin from *, October 23, 2010 at 7:15 p.m.

    Mark you need to be more careful. Your story is poorly written, complete with incorrect interpretations of the facts. *It's not 5 Billion Subscribers or even 5 Billion Users* as your headline states.

    The study say "5 Billion SUBSCRIPTIONS"

    You also left out this important sentence:

    "In developed markets, subscriptions continue to grow despite penetration levels greater than 100%. "

    That's quite different right?! I mean I have 6 devices for four people in my family.

    Frank added to the misinterpretation. "It is hard to believe that 75% of the worlds population has a mobile device". They don't.

    I love research but I hate people interpreting it incorrectly more!

    Here is the brief from the study straight from ABI

    http://tinyurl.com/26tfjvj

  3. ANSHUL GUPTA, October 25, 2010 at 2:12 p.m.

    I agree with 'Robert Formentin'...this post has hyped the situation!

    -Anshul
    http://ideas8bottom.blogspot.com/

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