The GSMA revealed the level of smartphone ownership across the world was 54 per cent at the end of 2022, with the vast majority of those 4.3 billion people using mobile internet services.

In the latest edition of the association’s annual State of Mobile Internet Connectivity report, it noted almost 4 billion of the 4.6 billion people using mobile internet services at end-2022 were doing so through a smartphone and the remainder feature phones.

It is the first time the organisation has divided mobile internet usage numbers by device type.

Although the mobile internet penetration rate of 57 per cent of the global population was up from 55 per cent at end-2021, the GSMA noted the growth rate had slowed.

Just over three quarters of new mobile internet adopters in 2022 came from low- and middle-income countries.

The organisation stated mobile internet coverage was “relatively unchanged” over 2021, with 95 per cent of the global population covered. Those without access to connectivity were in predominantly rural and sparsely populated areas.

As in the company’s recent reports and commentary on the issue of increasing access, a large factor was defined as the usage gap, where users are covered by networks but are not accessing them.

Although the gap is coming down, the GSMA noted 23 per cent of people aged 18 and above “are still not using mobile internet despite being covered by a mobile broadband network”.

“The majority of those living within mobile broadband coverage but not using it do not yet own a mobile phone.”

Closing the digital divide is set to be a central topic of the GSMA’s MWC Kigali 2023, which is scheduled to run from 17 October to 19 October.