Asia/Pacific Nears 2B Mobile Lines

The Asia/Pacific region is set to end 2009 with more than 2 billion mobile connections, about 45 percent of the world's total of 4.6 billion, according to a new study commissioned by the GSM Association (GSMA) .

The study, conducted by A.T. Kearney for the GSMA, found that the region's 47 markets ended 2008 with an aggregate population of about 3.7 billion people and more than 1.7 billion mobile lines, about 99 percent of which are to be found in the 17 largest markets.

According to the study's findings, published today in the "Asia Pacific Mobile Observatory 2009," the region is expected to add a further 300 million mobile connections this year to take the total to more than 2 billion, and then add a further 1 billion lines during the next four years to take the total to more than 3 billion by the end of 2013.

Much of that growth is set to come from a small number of large markets that still have relatively low teledensities. According to the report, there are about 2 billion people in "emerging countries" (primarily China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) currently without a mobile connection. "This presents an opportunity for mobile operators to serve a significant untapped market, although doing so will require them to develop innovative business models and relevant products and services," notes the report.

The latest growth figures from India show there's no let-up in demand for mobile services: That market alone is growing at about 15 million new connections each month, and there are still several new entrants set to enter the market and tap further into India's underserved rural areas. (See India Nears 500M Mobile Lines.)

India ended September with nearly 472 million mobile lines and is on course to top the 500 million mark by the end of this year. The growth is also spectacular in China, where the three major operators had 698 million mobile customers among them at the end of September. (See China: 1 Billion Lines Served .)

Those two markets will, combined, clearly have more than 1.2 billion mobile connections between them by the end of 2009 and will continue to be Asia/Pacific's main growth markets in terms of subscriber numbers during the next four years, according to Pyramid Research , which, in line with the GSMA's expectations, also expects the region's mobile market to reach about 3 billion by the end of 2013.

Pyramid expects India's mobile market to top 820 million connections, and China to exceed 1 billion, by the end of 2013. The company's analysts also expect dramatic growth in Indonesia -- a country with a population of about 240 million -- which is set to see its mobile market grow from about 138 million at the end of 2008 to more than 260 million by the end of 2013.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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