Mobile Phone Growth Slows as Mobile Devices Saturate the Market

Grant Potter | Oct 29, 2013

More than 3.4 billion people own at least one mobile phone in 2013.1 This is equal to nearly half of the world's population.2  In addition, as of 2010 more than 90 percent of people worldwide were covered by a mobile phone signal, so most people at least have access to a mobile network.3

The number of mobile subscriptions—that is, the number of active accounts that have access to a mobile network—far surpasses the number of phone owners. It grew from 1 billion subscriptions in 2000 to a projected figure of more than 6.8 billion by the end of 2013.4 (See Figure 1.) This number is so much higher than the number of phone owners because many people own multiple mobile devices or multiple SIM cards for one phone.5 As a result, the number of mobile subscriptions is expected to surpass the number of people in the world in early 2014 according to the International Telecommunication Union, a U.N. agency.6

However, the annual rate of growth has already begun to slow as markets become increasingly saturated.7 Annual additions to mobile subscriptions peaked in 2010 at 680 million.8 (See Figure 2.)  The subscription rate began to dip in 2011, and it is estimated that 424 million new subscriptions will be added in 2013—some 250 million fewer than in 2010.9 

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