The State of Broadband 2015, a report recently released by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable development, gives insight into worldwide Internet usage as well as the stakes at play to once and for all bridge the digital divide.. Here some points we think are worth mentioning that shed light on Internet in 2015.
The State of Broadband 2015 report shows that in 2015 there are 7.09 billion mobile cellular subscriptions. That’s almost as many phones as there are inhabitants on the planet. But, there are only 3.17 billion internet users. These figures are explained with 2 main explanations.
Why the low percentage of mobile Internet users?
1) One person can have several Mobile cellular subscriptions. That is the case here where, even if sources vary a bit, the report shows that the number of unique mobile phone users in the world ranges between 4.9 and 5.2 billion (depending on whether the source is the World Bank or the Ericsson Mobility Report)
2) A mobile phone subscription does not necessarily mean that the user has subscribed to a data plan nor does it even mean that they have a smartphone. The Broadband report indicates that smartphones only represent 40% of the worldwide mobile subscriptions. All other subscriptions are for voice only. For those living in hyper connected areas where most homes have between 3 to 4 devices connected to the Internet (over 6 in the United States), this can be easily overlooked.
Internet adoption slowing?
Another point worth mentioning is that in 2015, the 3G progression, for the first time ever, has started to slow and is even expected to stagnate. Today, a little bit more than 3.5 billion users can potentially subscribe to a 3G data plan. But, for various reasons, (cost or unstable network), they don’t. In the mature markets (North America, Europe and soon South America) the LTE offer (4G) is growing at fast pace already reaching nearly 2.5 billion people and making 3G an “old” almost “redundant” offer.
Moreover, beyond data, this report also highlights a crucial point as far as bridging the digital divide is concerned : the language spoken by users has a big impact on the relevancy of information that is accessible (see our article The Digital Divide and the Language You Speak). Irrelevancy due to language is a large part of the digital divide.
Internet in 2015: still a long way to go
Clearly the message through all this data analysis is that bringing Internet access to everyone in the world is complicated. If 3G is proven too expensive or too unstable for some people, it seems that 4G will not even be considered by those who for the moment have access to a 2G network and nothing else.
But Be-Bound has found that it is possible to use the available technology to maintain an Internet connection and give Internet access to those without. Optimizing networks and making use of the 2G network may actually be the solution…This network covers more than 200 countries in the world, 95% of the planet, and is the ideal playground for frugal innovation. Where some see impassable barriers to Internet adoption, Be-Bound can provide an immediate solution by using our hybrid technology to bring Internet services to areas where there is little to no data connectivity available. We are convinced that the number of mobile Internet users is only going to increase.