More than 5 billion mobile subscribers worldwide by 2013 !

According to Informa Telecoms & Media, by 2013 the number of subscriptions worldwide will have risen to more than 5.3 billion and annual revenues from the global mobile market will top USD 1.03 trillion. From end-2007 to end-2013, the global mobile market will see huge growth, increasing in size by over half (56%), according to the latest edition of Informa Telecoms & Media’s Global Mobile Forecasts to 2013.

It took over 20 years to reach 3 billion subscriptions, but another 1.9 billion net additions are forecast in just six years, with the global total nudging past the 5-billion milestone in 2011. With this extraordinary growth, total annual revenues derived from mobile operators will grow by over a third (33.9%), jumping from USD 769 billion in 2007 to USD 1.03 trillion six years later.

Informa Telecoms & Media forecasts more than three quarters (78%) of global net additions between 2007 and 2013 to come from markets in Asia Pacific, Africa and Latin America, which will be the powerhouses of organic growth over the next five years. Astonishingly, nearly half (47%) of the 1.9 billion global net adds will come from just five markets – India, China, Indonesia, Brazil and Russia. By contrast, the mature markets of North America and Western Europe will in total contribute just 8% of global net adds, reflecting the high level of saturation in these markets.

Globally, subscription penetration will approach the 75% mark in 2013, while some countries will push past the 150% barrier – Romania (152%), Russia (153%), Italy (168%), Ukraine (173%) and Greece (183%). Growth in subscriptions (the number of SIMs) will outstrip growth in subscribers (the number of unique users), pointing to greater multi-SIM ownership. The global ratio of subscriptions to subscribers will increase from 1.29 in 2007 to 1.32 in 2013. In Western Europe, the ratio will reach 1.55 in 2013, and even higher (1.75) in Eastern Europe.

As the global subscription base expands, total annual revenues will increase to over USD 1 trillion in 2012. Voice revenues will continue to make up the lion’s share of total revenues, but will see slowing growth, and even a decline from 2010 onwards. With regulators worldwide looking to promote competition, forcing operators to push down voice tariffs, Informa Telecoms & Media expects voice revenues to peak as soon as 2009 in Western Europe, and even by end-2008 in North America. In more developing markets such as the Middle East and Asia Pacific, voice revenues will not peak until 2011, and 2012 in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Operators globally will be challenged to generate sustainable revenues as average revenue per user (ARPU) continues to drop. To keep annual revenues on the up, operators will need to promote usage of data services. Annual data revenues, unlike voice revenues, will go from strength to strength, and will more than double from USD 148 billion in 2007 to USD 347 billion in 2013. As a result, the proportion of total revenues generated by data services will increase from less than a fifth (19.2%) in 2007 to over a third (33.7%) at the end of the forecast period.

With voice revenue streams diminishing, industry players will encourage data spend among subscribers by innovating in non-voice services and differentiating their data service offerings from those of their competitors. While 2G will remain the dominant technology generation by subscription numbers until 2013, its market share will fall from over two thirds (66.9%) in 2007 to less than one third (32.7%) in 2013, as 3G+ technologies continue to gain ground. 3.5G technologies accounted for just 1.2% of total subscriptions in 2007, but will represent nearly a quarter (22.9%) of the global subscription base by 2013 and exceed the number of 3G subscriptions.

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