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Global Mobile Penetration on Track for 100%
Source: totaltele.com
Source Date: Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Focus: Internet Governance
Created: Nov 23, 2010

GSMA predicts 1 billion mobile broadband subscriptions in 2012; warns of 'dark forces' in applications space. The world will soon be able to claim as many mobile subscriptions as it has people, according to GSMA chief executive Rob Conway, who opened Mobile Asia Congress 2010 on Wednesday with a keynote speech that covered mobile broadband networks, smartphone operating systems, and applications. There are more than 5 billion mobile subscribers in the world today, “and we are now on track to hit 6 billion mobile connections in the first half of 2012,” Conway said. With the population of the earth standing at 6.9 billion, mobile penetration “will [soon] exceed the global population,” he predicted. Mobile data will be key to that growth. There are 361 million HSPA connections worldwide, “more than double” the number recorded this time last year, Conway said. 15 million new connections are added per month on a global basis, 6 million of which are in the Asia-Pacific region. “[We will reach] the 1 billion mobile broadband connections milestone in 2012,” Conway forecasts. LTE will help operators serve the demand for mobile broadband. There are currently 10 live LTE networks in the world, Conway said, with a further 87 due to launch in the 2010-2012 timeframe. “The mobile industry is now firmly behind LTE,” Conway said, noting that even WiMAX operators like Russia's Yota and Clearwire in the U.S. are looking at LTE. Much of the recent growth in mobile data stems from an increase in smartphone penetration. But unlike some industry watchers, Conway welcomed the proliferation of smartphone operating systems on the market. It might look like “a two-horse race for smartphone OSs,” between Apple and Android, said Conway, but there are other players to consider. Nokia's Symbian is still the leading platform by subscribers, but it has lost ground to the rapidly-growing Apple and Android.“Android has come from almost nowhere,” said Conway, noting that the Google operating system recorded 1,360% year-on-year growth in the third quarter of this year, when it shipped on 20.5 million devices. That gave Android 25% of the market, to Symbian's 37% and Apple's 17% market share. “We welcome the introduction of Microsoft's commendable Windows [Phone] 7,” Conway said, adding that he is also looking forward to the arrival of Nokia's high-end MeeGo platform next year, as well as the new system in the pipeline at RIM. “The horse race... will get ever-more exciting in the future,” Conway said. Nonetheless, it will be difficult for the other players to match Android's potential.

“We see smartphones becoming ubiquitous,” with prices falling, especially for Android-powered phones which will benefit from the OS's scale, Conway said. “[Android is] the world's first truly viral OS,” running on 60 different handset models worldwide at present and with more to come. India recently got its first Android vendor in the shape of Videocon, Conway noted. And with smartphones come applications, which promise to deliver significant revenues for the app store providers. When Apple's App Store launched in 2008 it had fewer than 100 applications. The figure had risen to 200,000 by April 2010 and now, six months later, stands at 300,000, with 7 billion apps downloaded to date, Conway reminded the audience. Meanwhile the Android Market has 100,000 apps, compared with just 50 when it opened two years ago, and has recorded 2 billion downloads to date. “Apps are becoming a very decent revenue source for Google,” said Conway. He added that the Internet giant has revealed that it is on track to generate $1 billion in revenues from Android, speculating that an estimated one third of that sum could be apps sales. But with applications comes a huge responsibility, according to Conway. There have already been instances of consumer data being passed to advertisers through apps, such as games on Facebook, Conway noted. But there may be even darker forces seeking to use apps,” he warned. For example, fraudulent mobile banking applications have appeared on Android Market.
We have to be vigilant, Conway advised.(By Mary Lennighan, Total Telecom)
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