For years, developed nations provided the cellphone industry with most of its growth and fat profits. Now, that growth has slowed, it is the emerging markets that are rising fast. As a result, cellphone-service providers are reaching into the world’s remotest regions.
Developing regions such as Africa, China and India together account for roughly 1.6 billion cellphone subscribers, about 59% of the global market, according to Wireless Intelligence, a joint venture between the GSM Association and Ovum Holdings Ltd. that tracks cellphone-industry data.
Analysts expect these newer cellphone markets to contribute the vast majority of growth in mobile subscribers in the coming years. Only about a third of people in developing markets currently have mobile phones. In India, less than 15% of the population has a cellphone, but the market is increasing by more than six million new subscribers a month. By contrast, roughly 70% of the U.S. population own a cellphone and some Western European markets have reached saturation point.