In most developing countries, mobile broadband (3G or above) is the main way—and often the only way—to connect to the Internet. It is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one, as potential users face several other barriers to connectivity.
Ninety-five per cent of the world population now has access to a mobile broadband network. Between 2015 and 2021, 4G network coverage doubled to reach 88 per cent of the world’s population.
In four of the six regions, mobile broadband coverage (3G or above) is available to 90 per cent of the population, and the CIS region is very close to that mark (89 per cent). The coverage gap remains significant in Africa, where, despite a 21 per cent increase in 4G coverage since 2020, 18 per cent of the population remains without any access to a mobile broadband network.
Almost as many (17 per cent) lack such access in LDCs and LLDCs, thereby falling short of target 9.c of Sustainable Development Goal 9: to “significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020.”
While virtually all urban areas in the world are covered by a mobile broadband network, many gaps persist in rural areas.
In Africa, 18 per cent of the rural population has no mobile network coverage at all, and another 11 per cent has only 2G coverage. This means that almost 30 per cent of the rural population cannot access the Internet. The coverage gap is almost as significant in the Americas, where 22 per cent of the rural population is not covered at all and another 4 per cent is covered only by 2G.