UN: Mobile broadband ‘fastest-growing technology in human history’

By Jim O'Neill on Sep 23 2014 at 7:00 AM
Half the world will have broadband by 2017, says the United Nations

Mobile broadband over smartphones and tablets is now the fastest growing technology in human history, a new report said, and it’s driving the growth of broadband worldwide.

And that technology, said a new report from the U.N. Broadband Commission, will help deliver broadband to more than 50% of the world’s population by 2017.

Currently, about 40% of the world’s people are already online, the report said. About 2.9 billion people will be using the Internet by the end of the year, up 26% from 2.3 billion in 2013. Of those 2.9 billion users, nearly 80% -- 2.3 billion people -- will access mobile broadband; that’s expected to soar to a whopping 7.6 billion within the next five years. Mobile broadband already outnumber conventional fixed broadband subscriptions 3-to-1.

And, said the Commission, almost 83% of mobile broadband users currently are using enabled social media applications, about 1.9 billion people.

South Korea, not surprisingly, retains the title of “most connected,” with household broadband penetration exceeding 98%, up from 97% last year.

Leads the world in fixed broadband penetration (44%). Four economies, Monaco, Switzerland, Denmark, and the Netherlands, have fixed broadband penetration exceeding 40%, up from one – Switzerland – a year ago.

The United Kingdom (12th), Japan (15th) and Canada (16th) all rank ahead of the U.S. (19th) in terms of number of people online per capita, with Germany (20th) and Australia (21st) following.

The U.S. now is 24th in terms of fixed broadband subscriptions per capita, just behind Japan but ahead of Macao (China) and Estonia.

In the MENA region, Bahrain (11th), UAE (13th) and Qatar (17th) rank in the Top 20 worldwide, with Qatar having the second highest percentage of household broadband (96%) of any developing country after Korea. It also ranks third out of developing countries for percentage of individuals using the Internet.

There are just 77 countries where over 50% of the population is online, an increase from 70 a year ago.

The lowest levels of Internet access are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, with Internet available to less than 2% of the population in Ethiopia, Niger, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Somalia, Burundi, Eritrea and South Sudan.

“Broadband uptake is accelerating, but it is unacceptable that 90% of people in the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries remain totally unconnected,” said ITU Secretary-General Dr. Hamadoun I. Toure. “With broadband Internet now universally recognized as a vital tool for social and economic development, we need to make connectively a key development priority, particularly in the world’s poorest nations. Connectivity is not a luxury for the rich – rather, it is the most powerful tool mankind has ever had at its disposal to bridge development gaps in areas like health, education, environmental management and gender empowerment.”

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