Internet To Reach Three Billion Users By Year End

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Figures reveal booming demand for the Internet in developing countries, on top of growing mobile broadband usage

Internet usage around the world continues to increase significantly, with take-up especially strong in developing countries.

And the new figures from the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) also reveal increasing usage of mobile broadband, again with developing countries driving this growth.

And Counting

According to the ITU, by the end 2014 there will be almost 3 billion Internet users – two-thirds of them coming from the developing world. This is impressive, considering the world’s population is estimated to be 7.161 billion people as of the end of March.

Arabic Internet button scarf muslim © Elnur ShutterstockThis means that the Internet is used by roughly 40 percent of the world’s population – 8 percent in developed countries and 32 percent in developing countries. But the developing world still has some catching up to do, as more than 90 percent of the people who are not yet using the Internet are from the developing world. Europe has the highest penetration rates, followed by the Americas, and then Asia.

And the figures reveal that home Internet access in the developed world is reaching saturation point. Close to one-third (31 percent) of households in developing countries will be connected to the Internet, compared with 78 percent in developed countries. In February, figures from the Office for National Statistics noted that 44.3 million adults in the UK had used the Internet at some point during the fourth quarter of 2013, an increase of 1.2 million since Q4 2012 and equivalent to 87 percent of the total population.

Meanwhile the ITU also predicted that the number of mobile-broadband subscriptions will reach 2.3 billion globally by the end of 2014. It predicts that mobile-broadband penetration will reach 32 percent by end 2014. Mobile-broadband penetration is higher in developed countries (84 percent), compared to only 21 percent in developing countries.

Mobile-broadband penetration levels are highest in Europe (64 percent) and the Americas (59 percent), with Africa in last place with 19 percent.

“The newly released ICT figures confirm once again that information and communication technologies continue to be the key drivers of the information society,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré.

Grim Reading

The ITU figures will make grim reading for fixed-line telecos however, as the results confirm the fact that fixed-telephone penetration has been declining for the past five years.

By end 2014, there will be about 100 million fewer fixed-telephone subscriptions than in 2009. This makes it vitally important for telcos to grow their fixed-line broadband connections in order to offset the decline in fixed-line telephone usage.

By end 2014, the ITU predicts that fixed-broadband penetration will have reached almost 10 percent globally, so there is still plenty of room for growth here for the fixed-line providers.

Global Trend

There is little doubt that these figures are only going upwards, thanks in part to the continued growth of smart devices such as smartphones and tablets. Indeed, recent statistics show that over half of the UK populace has access to some kind of tablet device.

And this is only likely to increase, as more and more people embrace mobile devices which should see the amount of data exchanged worldwide skyrocket. A recent Cisco report for example estimated that the number of mobile device users worldwide will rise to 4.9 billion by 2018.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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