Can you hear me now?… Mobile phone use passes milestone

The speed and scale of the world’s love affair with mobile phones was revealed in a UN report that showed more than half the global population now pay to use one…

By the end of last year there were an estimated 4.1bn mobile subscriptions, up from 1bn in 2002. That represents six in 10 of the world’s population, although it is hard to make a precise calculation about how many people actually use mobile phones.

Africa is the continent with the fastest growth, where penetration has soared from just one in 50 people at the turn of the century to 28%.

Much of the take-up is thought to have been driven by money transfer services that allow people without bank accounts to send money speedily and safely by text messages, which the recipient – typically a family member – can cash in at the other end. Vodafone’s M-Pesa money transfer service was launched in Kenya in 2007 and now has 5 million users.

Developing countries now account for about two-thirds of the mobile phones in use, compared with less than half of subscriptions in 2002.

The world’s traditional Telcos have been stuck in the mud of monopoly and complacency for so long they’ve dropped straight out of competitiveness. Their only salvation – and it’s likely for the biggest – is to buy up and absorb wireless cell providers.

Still, the Establishment mindset is a hard drug habit to kick. The new breed of wireless entrepreneurs may still continue to run right past “old greed” with nimble access to the Web.

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