Few technologies in the world have created as immediate and widespread an impact as cell phones. Hand-held phones have completely changed how the world communicates in the span of a decade or so.
We are only a few years from there being a mobile phone subscription for every human being on earth.
According to the International Telecommunications Union, there were 6.4 billion mobile phone subscriptions at the end of 2012, translating to 91% penetration globally. That’s up from a mere 662 million subscriptions a decade ago.
(The world has some 7 billion human inhabitants.)
Of course, mobile subscriptions are not spread evenly between the developed and developing world, and there are many people in the developing world without mobile phone service. Penetration was 124% in the developed world, as a significant number of users have more than one phone. Nonetheless, penetration was still 84% in the developing world.
The ITU forecasts that penetration will take another jump this year. It expects there to be 6.8 billion mobile subscriptions at year-end 2013, good for 96% penetration. It forecasts penetration in the developing world will grow to 89% this year.
Elsewhere, the ITU forecasts there will be 2.1 billion mobile broadband subscriptions (i.e., smartphones) by the end of 2013, suggesting global smartphone penetration of 30%.