Informa the industry analyst for telecoms, has just reported on 29 Nov that the mobile telecoms industry has reached the 3.3 billion subscription level. As the planet's population is 6.6 billion, this means that there is a mobile phone subscrption for half the planet, as reported by Total Telecom.
UDATE Dec 10 2008 - I've just published my annual statistical review about the overall size of the mobile industry for end-of-year 2008. All new numbers so if you are interested in the "big picture", you may want to read this blog entitled Trillion with a T: Newest Giant Industry is Mobile
NOTE - that blog covers all of the topics in this, older blog posting, so unless you want to read about the history of mobile, I suggest you hop over to the newer blog where the current numbers are discussed.
A few observations - note the speed of subcriber growth is NOT SLOWING DOWN. We were at 2.7 billion subscribers at the end of 2006. Many of the pundits and experts who don't really understand mobile telecoms, looked at the industry last year and promised this year the growth would slow down. It didn't. The growth in fact accelerated.
Secondly, a subscription count is not a count of mobile phone users. As we've said here many times before, there is an increasing number of multiple subscriptions in the world (more than 28% of all phone owners have two or more subscriptions by earlier Informa numbers released this year). A good indicator of that is Informa's latest count that now we have 59 countries where mobile phone density exceeds the human population (per capita mobile phones more than 100%). So out of the 3.3 billion subscriptions, how many different people actually own one or more phone subscriptions, that number is about 2.55 billion now at the end of 2007.
Still amazing numbers compared to other technologies such as the 1.5 billion people who own a credit card or TV set, the approx 1.3 billion who now have an internet connection etc. If you would like to read an analysis of comparisons of the various technologies, check out our blog from about a year ago.