The latest figures released by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) show that, globally, almost 3 billion people will be connected to the Internet by the end of 2014 – though Africa remains in the slow-lane.
According to the group, in Africa, only 20% of the continent’s population will be online by end 2014, up from 10% in 2010.
Additionally, only about one out of ten households on the continent will be connected to the Internet.
Despite household Internet access in Africa continuing to grow at double-digit rates – the region remains at the bottom of the pile with the lowest level of Internet access in the world.
Decline of fixed-line
The ITU data shows that fixed-telephone penetration has been declining for the past five years, while fixed-line broadband access approaches 10% penetration, globally.
“By end 2014, there will be about 100 million fewer fixed-telephone subscriptions than in 2009,” the ITU said.
Additionally, fixed-broadband penetration growth (at 4.4% globally in 2014), is starting to flatten out, mostly due to a slowdown in developing countries, where fixed-broadband penetration growth rates are expected to drop from 18% in 2011 to 6% in 2014.
In developed countries, fixed-broadband penetration is expected to grow at around 3.5% in 2014 compared with 4.8% in 2011.
“In 2013, the number of fixed-broadband subscriptions in developing countries overtook the number in developed countries; a trend that is expected to continue, given the higher growth rates in developing countries compared with developed countries,” the ITU said.
Africa accounts for less than 0.5% of the world’s fixed-broadband subscriptions, ITU data shows.
“Despite double-digit growth over the last four years, penetration in Africa remains very low,” the group said.
Contrasting fixed-broadband penetration, Africa is leading in mobile broadband growth, the ITU said, with mobile-broadband penetration in Africa expected to reach close to 20% in 2014,
up from 2% in 2010.
The total number of mobile-broadband subscriptions is expected to reach 2.3 billion – with over half (55%) of those subscriptions found in the developing world, up from 20% in 2008.
Mobile-broadband penetration levels are still lowest in Africa however, with only 19% of the continent connected. Mobile-broadband penetration levels are highest in Europe (64%) and the Americas (59%), followed by CIS (49%), the Arab States (25%), Asia-Pacific (23%) and Africa (19%).
Total mobile cellular subscriptions are expected to reach close to the landmark figure of 7 billion by the end of the year – more than half of which are found in the Asia-Pacific region.
The increase is mostly due to growth in the developing world where mobile-cellular subscriptions will account for 78% of the world’s total, the ITU said.
However, the group noted that mobile growth rates have slowed to their lowest-ever level at 2.6%, indicating that the market is approaching saturation.
“Africa and Asia and the Pacific – where penetration will reach 69% and 89%, respectively by end 2014 – are the regions with the strongest mobile-cellular growth, and the lowest penetration rates,” the ITU said.