UPDATE (December 13, 2012): Adds brand-new data on 3G subscriptions provided by Informa. Mobile subscriber numbers also updated for China, Brazil and Japan.
Data sourced from close to the source
Where possible, mobiThinking has sourced the data from the country’s telecoms regulator, association etc or directly from the operators. If unavailable, or if more up-to-date, data from analysts has been used. Most of the 3G subscriber stats were provided by Informa WCIS.
Mobile subscriptions v unique mobile users
Please note that mobile subscriptions are the number of SIM cards being used in each country, not the number of people using a mobile device. Some people have two mobile accounts on the go at a one time, possibly in two devices, possibly in a single dual-SIM device (which are becoming increasingly common in the developing world and are forecast by Strategy Analytics to reach 20 percent of handsets by 2016). Numbers may also include machine-to-machine (M2M), e.g. SIM cards used in smart electricity meters or vending machines. Hopefully all figures below are ‘active’ accounts, as number of active and total subscriptions can differ substantially, for example see India and Nigeria, below.
Wireless Intelligence estimates that in October 2012, there were 6.6 billion total connections in 2012 globally, excluding M2M. It considers 10 percent of these connections inactive, bringing the active total down to 5.9 billion. The analyst believes consumers use on average 1.85 SIM cards each (which is surprisingly high) which leads to the conclusion that unique mobile subscribers worldwide currently stands at 3.2 billion. If Wireless Intelligence has done its sums correctly, that means unique subscriber penetration is just 45 percent in 2012. That’s quite a difference from the 85.8 percent below, but leaves even more room for mobile growth than we all expected. Wireless Intelligence forecasts that unique mobile users will grow to 4 billion in five years.
3G/4G subscriptions – a good indication of mobile Web penetration
mobiThinking has also included data for 3G/4G subscriptions, as this is a good indication of the number of mobile Web subscriptions (you don’t need third-generation or forth-generation mobile network connections to access the mobile Web, but it makes it a considerably more enjoyable experience). Of course, stats for mobile Web subscriptions would be better, but, of all 10 countries, only the Japanese regulator, TCA, provides this information.
National regulators, associations and operators need to publish 3G/4G subscription numbers
Too many regulators, including CTIA the US wireless association, and operators, neglect to make the number of 3G/4G subscriptions publically available. Where unavailable the table below uses data/estimates from analysts, mostly Informa WCIS. Please note that freely available analyst data may not be completely up-to-date, for example, Informa/KPCB says there are 57 million 3G subscriptions in China, where the latest data from the operators show this number is now 202 million and growing rapidly.
The Chinese operators are in an arms race to accrue 3G subscribers (China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom proudly display monthly subscriber and 3G subscriber numbers in Chinese and English on their websites, for all to see, impressing advertisers, shareholders, customers and press), in a similar fashion to what happened in Japan over the last decade, helping Japan become the world’s most dynamic mobile market. Hopefully other operators in other countries will join the 3G – or 4G – arms race soon. As this will benefit subscribers, marketers and the mobile ecosystem as a whole.
(source: World bank)
% of population
% of population
(subs; 3G subs)
Active: 699; total: 906.6
(Mobile Internet subs)
Active: 106.9; total: 143
Note: Informa 3G stats are forecasted estimates for Dec 2012.
Data compiled by: mobiThinking
• mobiThinking has done its best to ensure that these figures are a) accurate and b) the most up-to-date available (for free). If you can help us improve any of this data, please email editor (at) mobiThinking.com.
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