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ITU Says 2010 Will End With 5 Billion Mobile Subscriptions

BARCELONA: The folks at the International Telecommunications Union predict that cell-phone subscriptions will reach 5 billion by the end of this year, up from 4.6 billion at the end of 2009. The boom is being driven by the ongoing penetration of advanced services and handsets in developing countries, the ITU said.

“Even during an economic crisis, we have seen no drop in the demand for communications services,” said ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, “and I am confident that we will continue to see a rapid uptake in mobile cellular services in particular in 2010, with many more people using their phones to access the Internet.”

ITU said it “expects to see the number of mobile broadband subscriptions exceed 1 billion globally during 2010, having topped 600 million by the end of 2009. With current growth rates, Web access by people on the move--via laptops and smart mobile devices--is likely to exceed web access from desktop computers within the next five years.”

Touré said health-care applications were particularly of interest in developing countries.

“Good examples include sending reminder messages to patient’s phones when they have a medical appointment, or need a pre-natal check-up. Or using SMS messages to deliver instructions on when and how to take complex medication such as anti-retrovirals or vaccines. It’s such a simple thing to do, and yet it saves millions of dollars--and can help improve and even save the lives of millions of people,” he said.