Internet & Mobile Phone Users Worldwide 2015: 50% Population Is On Internet [REPORT]

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Communicating with people living in the farthest corners of the world got easier after the invention of Telephone, especially cellular phone. However, the invention of the internet took it to a whole new level. Way back in 2000, Internet was mere a luxury that was affordable to a few rich mostly from the developed nations whereas after 15 years, because of technological progress, infrastructure deployment, and falling prices, this amazing invention of mankind has evolved as an utility and is available to the most.

From 738 million mobile cellular subscriptions in 2000, the mobile cellular industry has grown widely all over the globe registering more than 7 billion mobile cellular subscriptions by the end of 2015, as per the new report from International Telecommunication Union (ICT). These new figures show the milestones achieved since 2000 when global leaders came together for a UN Summit to establish the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to make the world better connected.

Growth of Internet Penetration Globally Since 2000

Although, the internet wasn’t widely accessible all over the world with just 400 million internet users in 2000, the numbers have soared high up to 3.2 billion internet users globally by the end of 2015. The numbers are even more promising because out of the total number of global internet users today, 2 billion users belong to developing nations which seemed impossible in 2000 when internet was considered to be an expensive affair and only accessible to those having deep pockets.

The major portion of these peaks in internet usage comes from mobile or smartphones. Currently, there are around 2 billion smartphone users worldwide whereas 83% of the global internet users prefer their mobile devices to go online. The advancement in the wireless technology is the key for expanding the growth of internet even further to the remotest part of the world especially in the least developing countries (LDCs).

Global Internet Penetration 2000 - 2015
Global Internet Penetration 2000 – 2015

Well, thanks to India and China, today for every single internet user in the developed world, there are 2 internet users who dwell in developing countries. Irrespective of the huge difference between the total numbers of internet users in developed countries against the developing countries, around 4 billion remain offline compared to 200 million from developed nations. As per the report, considering the population in accord with the growth, developing countries lag far behind the developed countries. To make it even worse, only 1 in 10 people from the least developing countries (LDCs) have access to the internet. With a population of more than 940 million, only 9.5% are online in the least developing countries.

Achievements by ICT in the span of 15 years:

ICT Growth Patterns 2000 - 2015
ICT Growth Patterns 2000 – 2015
  • Rising from 738 million in 2000, the mobile cellular subscriptions has reached up to 7 billion by 2015 with a penetration rate of 97%
  • Global internet penetration between 2000 and 2015 jumped almost 7 times from 6.5% to 43%.
  • Though it was not quite popular in 2000, the mobile broadband which actually picked up during 2007 has reached up to 47% in 2015.
  • Households with internet access increased from 18% in 2005 to 46% in 2015.
  • The fixed broadband subscription rate is also growing at a snail speed of 7% increase every year and is expected to serve 11% of the global population by end 2015.
  • The 2G mobile cellular network that registered a growth of 58% in 2001 also rose to 95% in 2015.

“ICTs will play an even more significant role in the post 2015 development agenda and in achieving future sustainable development goals as the world moves faster and faster towards a digital society. Our mission is to connect everyone and to create a truly inclusive information society, for which we need comparable and high-quality data and statistics to measure progress.”, says Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau.

Evolution and Widespread Use of 3G Mobile-Broadband Technology

3G is the 3rd generation of mobile telecommunications technology that was first commercially launched in 2001 by Japan’s NTT DOCOMO. Since then it is growing in leap and bounds with the rise in competition among different ISPs especially in the developed nations.

In 2011, 3G connectivity was used by 45% of the global population that summed up to 7 billion however, the 3G population coverage increased up to 69% in 2015 when the world population has increased up to 7.4 billion.

3G Evolution 2000 - 2015
3G Evolution 2000 – 2015

Although, 3G population has increased by a decent scale in the last 4 years, there’s a huge difference of usage between the urban population and the rural population. Out of 3.4 billion global rural population, the 3G usage goes down to 29% while it shoots up by 89% among the global urban population of 4 billion. The credit for such a boost in the usage of 3G across the globe in the past 4 years goes to tremendous growth in 3G subscribers registered by India and China.

Mobile Broadband Vs Fixed-Broadband Service

Broadband internet service just like telephone networks was introduced for home or office usage purpose. However, the advent of wireless technologies that started with 2G connectivity helped the growth of mobile broadband internet usage in the last 15 years. With the popularity of 3G which is now slowly being succeeded by 4G networks and decrease in subscription cost, the number of mobile broadband users is on a rising streak globally.

Mobile broadband penetration is the highest in European and American regions with almost 78 active subscriptions per 100 inhabitants whereas Africa serves the lowest with just 17% mobile broadband users in the region. Globally, the mobile broadband penetration is growing at a steady rate by serving 46% of the world’s population. The numbers go high up to 87% for developed nations while it goes slightly down to 40% in the developing countries. Mobile broadband penetration in least developed countries (LDCs) just 12%.

Mobile broadband subscriptions
Mobile broadband subscriptions

On the other hand, fixed broadband penetration showed signs of steady growth but at a very slow pace. While mobile broadband penetration covered half of the global population, the fixed broadband usage was limited only up to 10%. Fixed broadband service is used more in developed nations with a noticeable growth covering 29% of the total population whereas it dropped down to 7% for developing nations. Even worse, fixed broadband penetrability in the least developing nations (LDCs) is almost none.

Fixed Broadband Subscriptions
Fixed Broadband Subscriptions

Overall Internet Usage across the Globe

Considering both fixed broadband and mobile broadband usage, the internet access has not even reached half of the world’s total population. Internet is currently becoming an integral part of our lifestyle with a lot of businesses depending on it for success and reach globally. The reach of internet among households is quite high in European countries with 82% penetrability while it is the lowest in Africa with 10%. Internet access among households is quite high in developed nations (81%) compared to developing nations (34%) while it is accessed by only 6% of the total population in the least developing countries (LDCs).

Percentage of households with Internet access
Percentage of households with Internet access

In terms of internet usage among individual, the scenario is no different as Europeans lead the pack with more than 77% using the internet slightly better than 66% Americans. Africans use internet the least with 20%. Internet penetration around the globe comprises only 43% of the world’s total population where 82% from developed countries are using internet the most compared to 35% from developing countries. The numbers drop down to 10% for least developing countries (LDCs).

Percentage of individuals using the Internet
Percentage of individuals using the Internet

In spite of the low figures, it must be noted that internet usage is slowly picking up in the regions of Africa and Asia Pacific and eventually these numbers would grow in the years to come.

How About the Broadband Speed?

Irrespective of growth, the most important criteria that requires attention is the speed of broadband connectivity across the globe. In spite of better internet penetration around the world, the broadband speed are significantly low in some Asian as well as African nations. People from European, American and some Asian countries enjoy great internet speeds of more than 10 Mbps.

Korean Republic stays at the top in terms of broadband speed across the globe followed by European countries like France, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and United Kingdom whereas American countries like United States and Canada are not far behind. Zambia faces the lowest broadband speed alongside Pakistan, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Honduras, Bolivia, Namibia, Guyana and Egypt.

Average connection speed is a major concern in many developing countries like India and China where in spite of tremendous growth in internet penetrability, the average speed is less than 2 Mbps. India and China represents 1/3rd of the overall global population, hence the state internet infrastructure in both these countries will show huge effects on global internet penetrability as well as average connection speed.


It is highly evident that ICT has reported promising growth in the industry by extending the internet reach to a wider audience by providing affordable internet access across the globe building better internet infrastructure.

Yet, the journey doesn’t end here and there’s still more roads to cover to develop the infrastructure and internet accessibility more extensively in developing nations especially the least developed countries (LDCs) across the globe. On the other hand, ICT must also focus on improving the average connection speed by helping modern day technologies like 4G and 3G reach the farthest corners of the world.

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao understands what’s need to be done to achieve a better-connected world and they are looking forward to using the current data from 2000 – 2015 to help create a better world with better connectivity.



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