The number of unique mobile subscribers around the world will surpass 5 billion later this year, according to a new GSMA study. The 2017 global edition of the GSMA's 'Mobile Economy' report reveals that the 5 billion-subscriber milestone will be achieved by mid-year 2017 and will increase to 5.7 billion by the end of the decade. By that point, almost three-quarters of the world's population will be subscribed to a mobile service. Subscriber growth over this period will be driven primarily by large Asia markets such as India, which alone is forecast to add 310 million new unique subscribers by 2020.
The study also highlights the on-going shift to mobile broadband networks and smartphones, paving the way towards the 5G era, and the mobile industry's growing contribution to the global economy, jobs and social development.
By the end of 2016 there were 4.8 billion unique mobile subscribers and 7.9 billion SIM connections worldwide1. More than half of connections (55 per cent) were running on mobile broadband (3G/4G) networks, which are forecast to account for almost three-quarters of connections by 2020. The proportion of 4G connections alone is forecast to almost double from 23 per cent to 41 per cent by the end of the decade, a result of ongoing investments in 4G networks by operators. At the end of 2016, 580 4G (LTE) networks had been launched across 188 countries, providing 4G coverage to approximately 60 per cent of the global population.