Study Eyes Mobile Gap

While mobile phone subscribers will nearly double in the next five years, reaching almost 4 billion by 2011, half the world's population will still lack mobiles at that point, according to a new study by U.K.-based firm Portio Research.

The report, "Worldwide Mobile Market Forecasts 2006–2011," contains some predictable findings: The two biggest growth markets over the next decade will be India and China, with 1.067 billion combined total subscribers in those two countries alone. But the study explodes some myths as well.

The U.S., often considered a weak market for subscriber growth compared to fast-rising countries in Asia and Eastern Europe, will actually show the sixth fastest growth rate for the rest of this decade, adding nearly 66 million subscribers by the end of 2011. That's ahead of such rapidly growing markets as Mexico, Ukraine, and Pakistan.

Russia, meanwhile, ranks just 11th in terms of subscriber growth, behind Iran and Bangladesh. And while Asia/Pacific leads in terms of total subscribers, with half the world's mobile phone users by 2011, the fastest growing region is in fact Africa, which will add 265 million subscribers in the next six years.

Worldwide subscribers will hit 3.96 billion in 2011, Portio predicts, leaving about the same number of people without mobile phones. (Current world population is about 6.5 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.) In the glass-half-full view, that means there's still plenty of room for growth in the mobile-phone industry, even in supposedly "saturated" markets like Japan, which will add 14 million net subscribers by 2011.

The report also looks at 3G adoption around the world, seeing more than 50 percent subscriber penetration in Western Europe and the U.S. by the end of the decade.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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