LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 AFRICA: An additional 1.6 billion mobile internet subscribers are forecast by the end of the current decade, according to new data released by GSMA Intelligence.
Around 30 per cent of the world’s population – equivalent to 2.2 billion people – had mobile internet subscriptions in 2013, it is calculated. By 2020, this figure is forecast to hit 3.8 billion, or around half of the world’s population.
Penetration of mobile internet users in the developing world will increase from 25 per cent to 45 per cent between 2013 and 2020.
Underpenetrated sub-Saharan African will see a growth in mobile internet penetration from 17 per cent (2013) to 37 per cent in 2020.
Many users in the developing world still access the mobile internet via 2G connections. In fact, over 60 per cent of users in sub-Saharan Africa fall into this category.
However, a transition is underway from 2G to 3G and 4G. In 2013, 900 million of the total 2.2 billion mobile internet subscribers connected via 2G, while 1.3 billion connected via mobile broadband.
By 2020, it is forecast that, of the 3.8 billion total mobile internet users globally, 2G mobile internet subscribers will drop to 800 million and mobile broadband internet users will have more than doubled to reach 3 billion.
In addition, the GSMA has published a Digital Inclusion report which focuses on the barriers to wider mobile internet adoption among unconnected communities.
The report highlights four barriers, as well as the means to address them. On the subject of reaching users in offgrid locations, it says possible measures include government support for forms of infrastructure sharing, as well as the release of more low-frequency spectrum and public subsidies.
A second barrier is affordability which needs to be addressed by lowering cost of ownership, for instance by cutting the tax burden. Literacy and a lack of digital awareness is a third barrier, partly addressable through technical means such as voice-based systems. Finally, there is the need to make the internet locally relevant, a challenge to which e-government services can be part of the solution.