About 12 years ago, there were less than 1 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide. Cut to today, and three-quarters of the entire population now has access to a mobile phone. And according to a new World Bank report, there are more than 6 billion mobile subscriptions today and those figures "will soon exceed that of the human population.”


Subscriptions in low and middle-income countries increased by more than 1,500% between 2000 and 2010 — from four to 72 per 100 inhabitants (it is common in some countries for one to have more than one SIM card).

Voice is still the primary use for mobile device, while texting comes in at a close second. About 5 trillion text messages were sent in just 2010 alone, and accounted for 80% of operator revenue (around $106 billion!).

And not surprisingly, the younger generation are ones driving mobile sales in developing countries. Those under age 15 make up 29% of the population in low- and middle-income economies, compared to just 17% in high-income nations. The report notes that these developing countries are “growing richer, so more consumers can afford to use mobile handsets for more than just essential voice calls.”

The reason why this is such a big deal for developing nations is that it creates “unprecedented” opportunities for employment and education. Expanded technology will help drive down the price of mobile devices, and networks are doubling in bandwidth nearly every 18 months in trying to expand into rural areas. This encourages more Internet access and higher app downloads, thus empowering individual users and boosting the economy as a whole.