Global Mobile Phone Users Up 2x Since 2000 – Developing World Biggest Growth

The ITU released research indicating that the number of mobile phone subscribers worldwide surged past 1.5B around the middle of this year, far outstripping the number of fixed phones worldwide at 1.185B. The revenues for mobile reached US$414B in 2003, 10x what they were in 1993. The ITU attributes the bulk of the subscriber growth, as we know, to the developing world, citing “developing countries as a whole had overtaken rich nations to account for 56% of all mobile subscribers, while accounting for 79% of growth in the market since 2000.” And although we are equally enthused about the spread of communications, we caution investors and vendors alike to be realistic about the profitability of ventures in the developing world. The ITU report, and the articles that cite it, seldom seem to mention the fact that the ARPUs in these countries are fractions of what Western businesses are used to seeing. For example, Latin American ARPUs average around US$8/mo. Successful business plans need to incorporate this data, as well as the phenomenal growth rates.

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