Somewhere on the planet last Thursday, someone skipped over pages of fine print they will later regret not reading in order to sign a mobile services contract that brought the worldwide number of such accounts to 3.3 billion, a figure roughly equal to half the Earth's population.
We don't know who it was, but can't you just see the balloons and confetti falling on some startled AT&T customer in Ottumwa, Iowa?
Announcing this milestone with such remarkable precision were the industry analysts at Informa Telecoms and Media, who in their press release also provided a treasure trove of interesting facts and trivia regarding the mobile-phone revolution:
- In 1987, 35 countries hosted mobile-phone networks, a figure that had risen to 192 a decade later and today stands at 224.
- Ten percent of the world's population remains uncovered by a mobile network, while 40% are covered but remain unconnected, including my father, which should surprise no one given that he doesn't even have an ATM card.
- That 3.3 billion figure does not mean that half the people on the planet are packing cell phones. The reason is that so many individuals have identified a need to have more than one account at a time: 59 countries tally more accounts than people, according to these analysts.
- On the other hand, 27 counties with networks have subscriber penetrations below 10%.
- On the high end, Kuwaiti operator Zain reports a monthly ARPU of US$71, followed by Hutchison Whampoa's U.K. operations at US$70.55 and Q-Tel in Qatar with US$69.
- On the lower side, there is Hutchison's Sri Lankan operator at US$2.83 and Bangladesh's CityCell brand at US$2.98.