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Mobile Around the World

The mobile revolution is a truly global revolution; indeed, Cisco’s 2014 Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast shows that global mobile data usage increased by 81% year-over-year from 2012 to 2013.1 Indeed, while North America continues to see significant growth, Cisco reports even higher growth percentages in Asia, and continuing growth throughout the developing world, as Figure 1.3 illustrates.

Figure 1.3

Figure 1.3 The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in mobile data usage listed in exabytes (one exabyte=one billion gigabytes). Note the significant CAGR in the Asia Pacific region.

The really intriguing statistic in this report, however, lies in the distribution of mobile data. In 2013, the top 1% of mobile data users globally generated 10% of mobile data traffic. This is actually down 50% since 2010. What does this mean? Simply put, the evening out of mobile data usage worldwide indicates that more and more people are relying on their smartphones for everyday Internet-related tasks, reducing the relative contribution of the most active users.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recently published some statistics on global mobile technology penetration. According to its most recent report,2 there are now 6.8 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions—almost one for every human on the planet. In fact, in developed nations, there is more than one mobile phone per resident (128%), with developing nations not far behind (89%).

Mobile broadband subscriptions have also grown tremendously, at a rate of 40% per year from 2007 to 2013. While overall penetration of mobile broadband is lower in developing nations, there we see the highest growth rate, with Africa (for example) realizing 82% annual growth in mobile broadband from 2010 to 2013.

Much has been said about the “platform wars” between Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry OS, and the statistics here vary considerably. While “usage” shows iOS as the leading mobile operating system, sales figures show Android-based phones outselling the field by a considerable margin in 2013.3 What is more important, however, than simply looking at phones as iOS devices, or Android devices, is this: They are all Internet devices. According to the Pew Internet and American Life research series, 34% of mobile Internet users admit that their mobile phone is their primary Internet access device,4 a trend that is accelerating even faster globally. So the intense competition between mobile operating systems is truly having one positive benefit for the world: As these devices become more and more powerful and easy to use, they are truly putting the Internet into the world’s pockets.

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