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ITU Report Suggests Surge in Mobile Broadband Subscriptions

chike onwuegbuchi

Mobile broadband subscriptions have grown over 20% annually in the last five years and are expected to reach 4.3 billion globally by the end of 2017.

This is according to the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU's) ICT Facts and Figures 2017, which also shows a significant increase in broadband access and subscriptions, with China leading the way.

New data released by ITU shows 830 million young people are online, representing 80% of the youth population in 104 countries. The global ICT data shows youths (15- to 24-year-olds) are at the forefront of Internet adoption.

In least developed countries (LDCs), up to 35% of individuals using the Internet are aged 15-24, compared with 13% in developed countries and 23% globally. In China and India alone, up to 320 million young people use the Internet.

"ITU's ICT Facts and Figures 2017 shows great strides are being made in expanding Internet access through the increased availability of broadband networks," says ITU secretary general Houlin Zhao.

"Digital connectivity plays a critical role in bettering lives, as it opens the door to unprecedented knowledge, employment and financial opportunities for billions of people worldwide."

Between 2012 and 2017, LDCs saw the highest growth-rate of mobile broadband subscriptions, says ITU. Despite this, it points out the number of mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in LDCs is the lowest globally at 23%.

The UN specialised agency notes the number of fixed-broadband subscriptions has increased by 9% annually in the last five years, with up to 330 million subscriptions added.

There has been an increase in high-speed fixed broadband subscriptions parallel to the growth in the number of fibre connections, it adds.

Most of the increase in high-speed fixed broadband subscriptions in developing countries can be attributed to China, which accounts for 80% of all fixed-broadband subscriptions at 10Mbit/s or above in the developing world, says ITU.

Mobile broadband prices, as a percentage of gross national income per capita, dropped by half between 2013 and 2016, the report shows, adding mobile broadband is more affordable than fixed broadband in most developing countries.

According to ITU, while the Internet user gender gap has narrowed in most regions since 2013, the proportion of men using the Internet remains slightly higher than the proportion of women using the Internet in two-thirds of countries worldwide.

It also emerged from the report that international Internet bandwidth grew by 32% between 2015 and 2016, with Africa registering an increase of 72% during this period, the highest of all regions.

Global telecommunication revenue declined by 4% from $2 trillion in 2014 to $1.9 trillion in 2015. Developing countries, which are home to 83% of the global population, generate 39% of the world's telecommunication revenue.

ITU's ICT Facts and Figures demonstrates that ICTs continue to play an increasingly critical role in achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals.

"ICTs continue to be a key enabler of economic and social development, bridging the digital divide and fostering an inclusive digital economy," notes ITU telecommunication development bureau director Brahima Sanou.