The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region now accounts for half of all mobile subscribers worldwide, the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) states in its latest report.
The study said the region will remain one of the world’s fastest growing mobile markets through 2020 and beyond.
The Mobile Economy Asia Pacific 2014 report showed there were 1.7 billion unique subscribers in the region at the end of 2013, which accounts for half of the global 3.4 billion mobile subscriber base.
The number of APAC subscribers is expected to grow by 5.5 per cent a year until 2020, reaching 2.4 billion. The only region expected to grow faster was sub-Saharan Africa. APAC is expected to grow to 4.8 billion subscribers by 2020.
GSMA director general, Anne Bouverot, said the region is at the forefront of mobile subscriber growth, service and innovation.
“Innovation in the region is happening at many levels, from leading the way in advanced super-fast mobile services in mature markets to providing essential services such as education, healthcare and banking in the developing world. In every case, mobile operator investments are helping drive economic growth and creating jobs.”
According to the GSMA, the majority of APAC mobile subscribers are concentrated in four major markets, including China, India, Japan and Indonesia. Combined, these countries account for over a third of the global subscriber base.
China is the world’s largest mobile market. As of the end of 2013, it had 630 million unique mobile subscribers, or around 46 per cent of the country's population. According to GSMA, there were 1.13 billion active mobile connections in China at the end of 2013, meaning millions of Chinese subscribers use more than one SIM or device.
The study showed the region incorporates a diverse range of mobile markets. GSMA intelligence classes countries like Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea as ‘digital pioneers.’ This is due to adoption of 4G technology and new products. The study also mentioned ‘discoverer’ markets such as India, where operators are focusing on expanding networks to rural areas and offering affordable mobile broadband services.
GSMA said the mobile industry contributed $US864 billion to APAC’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013. This was equivalent to 4.7 per cent of total GDP in the region. The industry directly supported 3.7 million jobs and contributed $US 82 billion in public funding. GSMA predicts the sector to be an even greater economic driver, contributing more than 6.9 per cent to the region’s GDP and directly supporting over 6.1 million jobs.