Barcelona, 15 February 2010 — After reaching around 4.6 billion mobile cellular subscriptions by the end of 2009, ITU expects the number of mobile cellular subscriptions globally to reach five billion in 2010, driven by advanced services and handsets in developed countries and increased take-up of mobile health services and mobile banking in the developing world.
"Even during an economic crisis, we have seen no drop in the demand for communications services," says ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré, taking part in the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, "and I am confident that we will continue to see a rapid uptake in mobile cellular services in particular in 2010, with many more people using their phones to access the internet."
ITU expects to see the number of mobile broadband subscriptions exceed one billion globally during 2010, having topped 600 million by the end of 2009. With current growth rates, web access by people on the move — via laptops and smart mobile devices – is likely to exceed web access from desktop computers within the next five years.
"Even the simplest, low-end mobile phone can do so much to improve healthcare in the developing world," adds Dr Touré. "Good examples include sending reminder messages to patient’s phones when they have a medical appointment, or need a pre-natal check-up. Or using SMS messages to deliver instructions on when and how to take complex medication such as anti-retrovirals or vaccines. It’s such a simple thing to do, and yet it saves millions of dollars — and can help improve and even save the lives of millions of people."
Concerning mobile banking, rapid growth in mobile cellular subscriptions has meant that there are now large numbers of people worldwide, especially in developing countries, who have a mobile phone subscription but no bank account — and increasingly, subscribers are using their phones for banking.
ITU is the main source of internationally comparable data and statistics on ICT. The Market Information and Statistics Division of the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) collects, harmonizes and disseminates more than 100 telecommunication and ICT indicators from over 200 economies worldwide. Data are accessible online through the ICT Eye portal, on CD and in print publications. ITU regularly publishes analytical reports illustrating the latest trends in the sector. It also monitors the development of the digital divide and has developed widely used benchmarking tools, such as the ICT Development Index (IDI).