The world has a population of 6.8 billion at the end of this year, 2009. We here at the Communities Dominate blog have examined the statistics of the major technology and media industries, with a particular focus on mobile obviously, as we were the first to say in public, that all social networking services will head to mobile, as we said back in 2005 in our book Communities Dominate Brands, when most did not know what social networking was, and when nobody talked about YouTube or Facebook or MySpace and Twitter did not even exist. At the time when we wrote the book the total global blogger environment was under half a million, while today just English-speaking blogs number over 100 million. It has been quite a ride, these past four years or so since our book and we appreciate all the readers at this blog.
UPDATE - 5 February 2010: I have written a total industry statistics update which supercedes the information on this blog page. See the full Mobile Industry Stats 2010
UPDATE Feb 10, 2010 - The TomiAhonen Almanac has now been released, it has 180 pages, 84 charts and tables (13 more than the 2009 edition) with sample stats, first opinions and ordering info at this story TomiAhonen Almanac 2010 Released.
But yes, in that time mobile has grown from being just another technology platform, the widest reaching digital platform, widest reaching technology and widest reaching media channel (as we say, mobile is the 7th of the mass media, when put into chronological order of all seven mass media channels starting with print).
NUMBERS IN CONTEXT
And a little while ago, the ITU gave their projection that we will reach 4.6 billion live mobile phone subscriptions for the planet, by the end of the year 2009. Wow, 4/6 billion subscriptions. For comparison, there are 480 million daily newspapers by circulation (or probably less, as newspapers seem to be disappearing left and right in these troubling economic times). There are 900 million cars that are registered for use. There are about 900 million paid cable/satellite TV subscriptions on the planet. There are about 1.1 billion PCs in use of any kind including the new netbooks. There are less than 1.2 billion fixed landline phones - this number is also declining. There are about 1.5 billion TV sets and 1.7 billion total internet users. Note that of the internet users, today more people access web content (browsing) from a mobile phone, than from a personal computer - as we can see, the total world PC population is 1.1 billion, and many of those in poorer parts of the world, like in Africa and Latin America - are not even connected to the internet. Obviously most who access the web on a phone also do so from a PC, and today far more total internet traffic is from PCs than from phones. But as we have reported here before, today more total browsing is from mobile phones than from personal computers. In many developing world countries it ranges from 4:1 more from mobile as in South Africa to 10:1 as in Bangladesh.
But lets continue with the comparative stats. Credit cards? The world has about 1.8 billion unique holders of credit cards and about 2.2 billion unique holders of banking accounts. And then the last truly big technology - FM radios, the world has about 3.9 billion FM radio sets in use, although most of these are the multiple radios we have in the Western World, where a single person may have 4 or 5 radios easily. Also note that all other fave tech stories and gadgets are tiny compared to these, so gaming platforms like Playstations and Wiis or MP3 players like iPods or GPS devices like TomTom do not reach anywhere near a billion users.
MOBILE IS THE GIANT
Against that backdrop, comes mobile. I try to not call it the 'mobile phone' anymore, and certainly not the 'cellphone' as 'mobile' is best descriptive of the device and technology, it is far more than a calling device, or a phone. The word phone is literally the wong term for over 11% of all mobile phone/cellphone users, who never originate any voice calls on their devices - but do send text messages. In India the proportion is already at 30% of all phone users who never originate voice calls - but do send text messages..
So yes, the ITU reports that mobile will hit 4.6 billion subscriptions at the end of this year. That is two thirds of the total population of the planet. Wow. Compared to any other technologies - mobile is 18% bigger than radio, twice the size of unique holders of bank accounts, 2.5x bigger than unique holders of credit cards; over 2.7x bigger than all internet users - which includes mobile phone based internet users. Of PC based internet users, mobile is 4.6x bigger. There are 3 times more mobile phone subscribers than all TV sets on the planet. There are almost 4x more mobile phone subscriptions than fixed landlines globally, and more than 4x more mobile phones than all personal computers in use on the planet. And for those subscriptions - five times more people pay for a mobile subscription than pay for a cable TV or satellite TV subscription; and globally, almost ten times more people pay for a mobile than pay for a daily newspaper. Kind of makes you think, eh?
MULTPLE SUBSCRIPTIONS, DUAL PHONES
But that is not really the full story. We here at Communities Dominate blog have been analyzing more deeply into those mobile phone subscriptions, what is the reality. Once, ten years ago, a mobile phone subscription was the same thing as a unique mobile phone in use; and a mobile phone subscription was equivalent to 'unique mobile phone user' ie 'mobile phone subscriber". Those who saw me speaking ten years ago remember me pointing out that this was starting to be not true. Today all analysts agree, there are more subscriptions than actual phones in use, and there are more subscriptions, than unique 'subscribers.' Why? because many users will get two or more subscriptions, often to save on their costs. The prevalence of 'prepaid' subscriptions helps expand this offering where a subscriber does not need to sign up for a 2 year contract to get another phone number and account, on a rival network.
The phenomenon of the multiple subscription first tended to mean two subscriptions per person was also two phones per person, but that also was not true and we have reported on that split. Some who have two subscriptions are well to do, and have for example an iPhone and a Blackberry - one person, two phones, and two subscriptions. This is the common pattern with employed people in the Developed World. But we have now actually the larger proportion of the second subscriptions, of users with one phone, who use two or even more subscriptions on that one phone, switching the SIM card. So these tend to be almost exclusively GSM phones - and part of the appeal of GSM to the Developing World. People too poor to afford a 50 dollar basic phone, can still get a used GSM phone imported from Europe or the Middle East, to Africa for example, and then to further optimize on their costs, they get a couple of SIM cards and switch between them to get the best rates on a given call or message type, depending on time of day, on what network the other caller is, etc.
I was literally the first person to report on these phenomena, as they were first observed globally, in Finland in the last decade. My consultancy TomiAhonen Consulting has been providing the big picture numbers here via this blog, and in my writing and speaking engagements quite regularly, and as I said at the start of this blog, at the start of this year, January 1, 2009, we had 4.0 billion total subscribers, using 3.4 billion unique phones, which was 3.0 unique mobile phone users (paying subscribers) with the remaining 1 billion mobile subscriptions being second or third subscriptions. And yes, about 1 in 8 mobile phone unique users on the planet last year, used two phones. This is as much as one in two out of Western European phone owners.
SPLITTING THE 4.6 B NUMBER
So my consultancy has been monitoring that number, and we are ready to give the tentative preliminary split for the end of 2009. We find that of the 4.6 Billion total mobile phone subscriptions, that means 3.3 Billion unique subscribers of mobile phones. Thus a staggering 1.3 billion of all mobile phone subscriptions on the planet are now second or multiple subscriptions. So more than a third of the planet - 39% of the unique mobile phone users, who have at least one phone and at least one subscription - now have 2 or more. Wow. But we have been reporting on many countries with 'astronomically' larger mobile phone subscriber counts than total human population (not households, and not adult populations) ie Hong Kong at 140%, Ukraine, Italy and Taiwan at 130%, Russia, UK, Sweden etc at 120%, even many Developing World countries have passed 100% per-capita human count of mobile subscriptions, meaning they have more mobile accounts than people such as Malaysia, South Africa, Chile. Colombia etc.
But yes, I am now reporting that the total unique mobile phone subscriber count grew from 3.0 Billion last year to 3.3 Billion this year, and is just short of 50% of the planet's total population.
What of actual phones in use? Many who have 2 subscriptions have also 2 phones, and for example many who recently got iPhones or Blackberries, tend to have a second phone for other needs or on other networks. And then there are many who carry two phones from the same maker, for convenience reasons, so for example if they want a QWERTY keyboard, they have a Nokia E series, and then to get a great camera, they also have a Nokia N-Series, but then are able to standardize on the chargers, the car kits, etc. But nonetheless, we clearly have far more handsets in use than the 3.3 billion unique mobile phone subscribers, and we sold over 1.1 billion new phones this year 2009. I am ready to report that for the end of the year, we will hit 3.8 Billion actual mobile phones (or strictly speaking, "mobile devices" - as this also now increasingly includes 3G data cards and dongles to allow laptops to connect to 3G networks) in use. Also note, that there were clearly then 100 million new subscibers who shifted from carrying one phone, to carrying two phones.
So mobile phone (end user mobile device) active population on the planet grew from 3.4 billion to 3.8 billion this year. Also that obviously means that out of the 1.1 billion new phones sold this year, 700 million were replacement phones to existing users, upgrading their handsets, and only 400 million were new phones put into use. Still, 3.8 billion actual phones is yes, 3.5 times more phones than personal computers, and over 2 times more phones than TV sets, and almost as many phones in use, as stand-alone FM radios on the planet. Very big numbers indeed.
But we are also observing two new trends emerging in the world. There are families so poor that they cannot afford to get a phone or even a prepaid SIM card subscription for each family member, but find such utility out of the first phone in the family, that they do get one mobile phone account as a 'family phone' - much like for most of the previous 50 years in the Industrialized World, we had fixed landlines, as a shared family phone, one phone for the whole family. I have seen the phenomena reported in many Developing World countries, in very much a rural-area focus, so it seems that in cities even the poor often get their own SIM cards, but in rural areas, often the first phone for a family becomes a shared instrument. My consultancy has now done its first estimate of this portion of the total mobile phone subscriber base on the planet, and finds that about 150 million mostly poor people, mostly rural, in mostly the Developing World, have a phone that is shared by the family. Out of all unique mobile phone owners on the planet, that is 4.5%. But because the families tend to be large in India and Africa, where we see this phenomenon most pronouncedly, it means that the total 'reach' of unique people who have access to a mobile phone, either their own or a shared phone is now 3.9 Billion. Or 600 million people have access to a 'family phone' as a mobile phone, while not owning that subscription. in total 750 million people use such a shared phone which is 19% of all who can be reached by mobile phone on the planet.
So, 3.9 Billion unique people can be reached by mobile phone, that is 57% of the planet. Out of those 3.9 million people, 3.3 billion or 85% have their 'own' mobile phone, and 15% have a family-shared mobile phone.
And we have another new phenomenon. This too has been expected for this whole decade, but the numbers have been so small that they did not dramatically factor in the overall giant numbers of mobile. I am talking of non-human subscriptions, the various telematics subscriptions on the planet. This includes the electricity or water meters that are read by automated GSM chips, or the remote control chips to remote TVs like they sell in Singapore on the 3G networks, and the remote control modules for your household robots as they sell in South Korea. We are now having industrial massive use of GSM in such industries as forest management or livestock management, and even household pets connected via GSM collars, and we reported on the first household plants that now send in SMS alerts when they need water, as launched in Japan. We are starting to see telematics-connected GSM accounts reported by some of the more advanced indsutrialized country markets, such as Telestyrelsen, the Regulator from Sweden. And based on the early data on telematics, we at TomiAhonen Consulting can report that around the world, 200 million mobile network subscriptions are non-humans, ie telematics subscriptions. That is 4.3% of all subscriptions today and growing.
So to understand the whole 4.6 B mobile subscription number reported by the ITU. yes, there are 4.6 billion mobile subscriptions on the planet at the end of 2009. That means a growth rate of 15% in this time of economic distress. Very impressive growth.
That breaks down to 4.4 billion human subscriptions and 200 million machine/non-human animal subscriptions.
The human 4.4 billion human subscription number represents 3.3 billion unique paying human subscriber. Out of those, 150 million have shared family accounts, so the total mobile phone user base reaches 3.9 billion people.
Out of the 3.3 billion actual mobile phone paying unique human users, one third have two or more subscriptions, so there are 1.1 billion 'second or third' subscriptions actively in use. And of those 3.3 billion unique mobile phone users, 15% have second phones, so the total number of actual mobile phones in use is 3.8 billion mobile phones, and 1 in 8 mobile phones actively used on the planet, is actually a second phone by the same user.
There you go. These are the preliminary numbers for the end-of-year 2009, based on analysis by TomiAhonen Consulting, and this is currently the only place where you can use as a reference for these numbers. But please feel free to report on these if you blog or write or speak on mobile industry numbers. And obviously the current start-of-year 2009 numbers for mobile in great detail are reported in the Tomi Ahonen Almanac 2009, for which you can see many statistics and free sample pages at the Almanac ordering page.