A Big Day in Mobile: Penetration Hits 50% Worldwide

Quite a milestone, as Informa says that global mobile phone penetration will hit 50 percent today, some 26 years after the first mobile network was switched on. While ownership of multiple subscriptions and SIMs means that fewer than half the world’s 6.6 billion people have phones, this stat makes very clear just how pervasive mobile telephony has become — moreso than so many other recent technologies.

Informa’s got some other interesting stats: at the end of September, 59 countries had penetration of more than 100 percent; just 27 countries had penetration under 10 percent.

The highest ARPU in the world is enjoyed by MTC in Kuwait, at $71 per month. It’s followed by 3UK, who despite rampant criticism over the years, brings in $70.55. The low end of the scale comes from Hutchison in Sri Lanka, with an ARPU of $2.83 per month, followed by operators in Bangladesh, the Ukraine and Pakistan.

These stats and figures reflect the wide array of challenges faced by the mobile industry worldwide. In developed nations, the goal is to boost ARPU, primarily with data and other services; in developing nations, it’s boosting penetration and turning a profit on extremely low ARPU. Some 3 billion or so people in the world are covered by mobile networks, but don’t have mobile phones, underscoring the importance of emerging markets to handset vendors.

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