Mobiles pay as they go global

There will be four billion mobile phone users by the end of the year. Is it the ultimate consumer product?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

According to Hamadoun Toure, head of the UN's agency for information and communications technology, 61% of the planet's population now has a mobile. That's up from a mere 12% at the start of the century.

It shows that good old BT wasn't joking with its slogan all those years ago: it's good to talk. In the past eight years the industry has averaged 24% growth year-on-year. Any retailers reading those stats will be wishing their sector could say the same.

The reason for the surge is, unsurprisingly, the developing world, with consumers in growing economies such as China, India and Latin America taking advantage of the ever-cheaper technology. BRIC countries are expected to provide 1.3bn subscribers by the end of the year.

It shows how strong an offering the mobile phone has. While it has already risen to prominence in the West as a desirable Dick Tracy-style example of tech chic, it is now fulfilling an entirely different need in the developing world. In a place where basic infrastructure such as landlines and banking systems have failed to take root, the mobile has now 'leap-frogged' itself to prominence. Few other products are able to boast such a wide appeal. 

Toure sees the phenomenal growth of the medium as proof that ‘... it is technically feasible to connect the world to the benefits of information communications technology'. Which surely provides enough positives to outweigh the odd downside, like how irritated the other third of the world's population will be with four billion ring tones, and four billion multilingual shouts of: ‘I'm on the train! I'm just going through a tunnel so you I may lose you'.

In today's bulletin:

B&B nationalised as meltdown continues
Mortgage lending slumps to new low
MFI gets another lifeline with £25m MBO
Mobiles pay as they go global
More silvertops urgently required 

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