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October 07, 2014

There are Now More Active Mobile Devices than People on Earth

According to GSMA Intelligence, the number of active mobile connections has just passed the world’s population. To understand why this milestone was reached takes some careful analysis. Many people around the world have no mobile devices and the explosive growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) will cause many of these connections to be the result of M2M implementation.

GSMA’s website has a couple of rapidly incrementing counters, which much like the world population or national debt counters, illustrate a phenomenon already large in size and growing fast. A rough look at the number of mobile connections shows a total over 7.2 billion (including M2M) increasing at a rate of roughly 1,000 connections per minute. Another counter shows a total of over 3.5 billion unique mobile subscribers and increments at about 400 units per minute.

So what does this mean exactly? Are customers around the world going to their local mobile phone outlet and buying up phones like there’s no tomorrow? The answer is partially yes, but that does not tell the complete story.

The total number of unique subscribers is about half the world’s population, so it looks like about half the planet has no mobile service.  Spencer Trask & Co. seems to agree, and the company is doing something about it. It helped found Millicom, Inc., which is tied to the Millicom Foundation, an organization dedicated to making mobile technology available to more users across the globe.

Another reason is growth in the IoT. Even if the Millicom Foundation succeeded in getting mobile service to everyone, the total number of connections from people will never catch up to the overall total of connections. Cisco predicted in February of this year that the number of connected mobile devices would exceed the world’s population by the end of this year. That number will grow to 1.4 devices per capita by 2018, a total of over 10 billion devices when the world population should be 7.6 billion.

The number of connected mobile devices exceeding the world population is a historic milestone that should not be ignored or dismissed. From it we get two important facts. First, much of the world does not have a mobile device and as a result, their opportunities may be limited. Second the IoT is already moving rapidly and eventually, intelligent devices will be able to make our lives more efficient. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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