Over half of the world's population will have a mobile phone by 2008, according to new research.
A new report from Portio Research predicts that the global mobile penetration rate will surpass the 50 per cent mark next year. That's not all though, because a further 1.5 billion mobile phone users are expected over the next four years to bring the overall penetration rate to 75 per cent by 2011.
Some 65 per cent of these additional users are likely to come from the Asia Pacific region, rather than from Africa as has previously been supposed. Moreover, the majority of the new subscribers will be from rural regions in countries such as India and Pakistan.
While mature markets such as Europe aren't expected to show any serious signs of growth over the next few years, Portio predicts that the US is likely to buck that trend seeing five years of sustained high-value volume growth.
Portio's report, entitled The Next Billion: Strategies for driving growth and making profits in low-ARPU mobile markets, puts the future growth of the mobile industry into some sort of perspective.
The study notes that while there will be a rapid rise in mobile owners in emerging markets, the monthly Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) for US subscribers is expected to be equivalent to yearly ARPU from customers in other countries. In India and Bangladesh, for example, subscribers are only just beginning to move towards monthly ARPU of about $3 or $4.
Indeed, the report goes on to claim that each North American subscriber is worth as many as seven new subscribers in Asia in terms of revenue.
Despite the obvious disparity in profits for mobile operators geographically, Portio's study does offer insights into why the big players can't afford to ignore any region.
It notes that while Asia Pacific offers massive growth in subscriber numbers and North America and Europe offer the highest levels of ARPU, South America will see continued growth of basic services with significantly higher returns per user than much of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
Moreover, it adds that Africa offers great future potential as "the last billion" when markets everywhere else are reaching saturation.
A recent study from Informa also heralded a rise in global mobile penetration. The firm announced in July that mobile subscriptions had reached three billion worldwide, but it said that there were fewer than 2.3 billion users of mobile services.
According to Informa's forecasts, users of mobile services will not reach three billion until the end of 2009, by which time subscriptions are forecast to reach four billion.
© 2007 ENN