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One mobile SIM for every person on the planet – but not everyone is connected

Wednesday, February 10th 2016 by Ellen Branagh

There is an average of one mobile SIM card per person on the planet, yet some areas still lag far behind others when it comes to how many people are connected.

Global analyst firm Ovum said its latest research shows huge growth in the mobile industry in the past decade, with global mobile ‘penetration’ reaching 100% at the end of 2015.

The figure, which is up from just 33% at the end of 2005, means on average there is one SIM card per person on the planet.

But it doesn’t mean that everybody on the planet is mobile-connected, Ovum said.

It said regional disparities still exist, with penetration in Africa and developing Asian markets at 82% and 79% respectively.

That puts the regions around 10 years behind Europe and North America, and they will only approach the 100% mark at the end of the decade, according to Ovum.

Dario Talmesio, Ovum’s European practice leader, said: “100% penetration is undoubtedly a significant milestone, but we should be mindful of a few caveats.

“There are still big regional differences, and of course rural penetration in developing markets continues to lag far behind that in urban areas.

“We also need to account for machines, which are taking an increasingly significant share of the overall pie.”

According to Ovum, machines are becoming increasingly connected. It said in some developed countries one in 10 SIM cards are used to connect machines such as cars, electricity meters, and other objects.

On average 4% of the world’s SIM cards are used to connect machines – a figure that Ovum said it expects to double to almost 8% in 2020.

50bn devices by 2020

Last year, Ericsson predicted that there would be 50 billion connected devices in the world by 2020, driving a need for technology like 5G.

And Cable.co.uk also reported that a new report from Gfk had found that more than half of smartphones sold globally in the first three months of 2015 were 4G devices.

The milestone marked the first time that 4G mobiles – fourth generation mobile phones – accounted for more than 50% of the global market share.

At the time Kevin Walsh, GfK’s director of trends and forecasting, said: “Emerging Asia is forecast to be the fastest growing region, driven by India and Indonesia, where low smartphone penetration leaves plenty of room for growth.”

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