With global mobile connections expected to hit 9.7 billion by the end of 2017, data from the World Bank shows which regions and countries are currently leading the way.
According to a recent report by the GSM Association (GSMA), global mobile penetration in terms of connections is fast-approaching 100%, and is expected to blast past the world population by the end of 2013.
The GSMA makes a distinction between mobile “connections” (number of SIM cards on a network) and mobile “subscriptions” (number of individual people on a network).
In its Mobile Economy 2013 report, the GSMA indicated that global connections are expected to reach 7.4 billion by the end of 2013, hitting 9.7 billion by the end of 2017.
The GSMA says that in Q4 2012, South Africa’s mobile penetration stood at 138% in terms of connections. In terms of subscriptions, however, the figure is significantly smaller at 66% of the population.
According to the World Bank, mobile cellular subscriptions are subscriptions to a public mobile telephone service using cellular technology, which provide access to the public switched telephone network. Post-paid and prepaid subscriptions are included.
For the data presented below, we have used the GSMA’s distinction between connections and subscriptions.
Leading the way
According to the World Bank, the Macao region of China has the highest penetration of mobile connections in the world, with 284 subscriptions per 100 people.
Hong Kong, also in China, is has the second highest penetration with 228 connections per 100 people.
When looking at mobile connections, globally, it comes as no surprise that Asia dominates the networks.
With a population exceeding 4.1 billion out of the global population of over seven billion people, Asia has by far the largest base of mobile users.
Top 10 countries by mobile cellular connections
|#||Country/State||Connections per 100 people (2012)
|1||Macao SAR, China||284|
|2||Hong Kong SAR, China||228|
|3||Antigua and Barbuda||199|
When looking at the countries with the lowest mobile connections, north-east African state, Eritrea, sinks to the bottom the chart with only five mobile connections per 100 people, according to the World Bank.
Eritrea has a population of six million people.
Myanmar, where mobile giants recently bid for a lucrative mobile operating licence, is also sparcely penetrated by mobile connections, with the World Bank indicating only 11 connections per 100 people.
Bottom 10 countries by mobile cellular connections
|#||Country/State||Connections per 100 people (2012)|
|199||Korea, Democratic Republic||7|
|193||Central African Republic||23|
The World Bank lists 213 countries and states, 12 of which show no data, hence totalling 201
SA versus the world
According to the World Bank’s data, South Africa has the 41st highest penetration rate, with 135 subscriptions per 100 people.
In its report for 2012, the GSMA reported similar findings, showing that South Africa has a connection penetration rate of 138% – while mobile subscriptions were at 66%. These figures are expected to be 171% and 79% by 2017, respectively.
Comparing like-on-like data from 2011 for Sub-Saharan Africa (53 subscriptions per 100 people) and the Middle-East and North African region (100/100), South Africa (2011: 127/100) shows a mobile connection rate far higher than the global average of 85 connections per 100 people.
|#||Region||Connection Penetration (2011)
|2||Middle East and North Africa||100%|
The global mobile industry brought in US$1.6 trillion in 2012, with mobile network operators contributing over 62% – $1 trillion – of the total amount, the GSMA said.