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By Bryce Baschuk
Dec. 1 – More than 95 percent of the world's population now has access to a mobile broadband signal, according to the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) latest connectivity report.
“The growth in mobile-cellular (voice and SMS) and mobile broadband subscriptions has been particularly rapid, with the deployment of mobile networks in developing countries and adoption by users of mobile devices in preference to those requiring fixed networks,” the report said.
Mobile-cellular subscriptions reached almost 7.1 billion worldwide and mobile cellular prices fell to 14 percent of gross national income (GNI) per capita, versus 29 percent in 2008, according to the report.
“These are promising developments which need to be complemented by efforts to extend mobile-broadband services beyond the main cities, into rural and remote areas,” wrote Brahima Sanou, the director of the ITU's telecommunication development bureau.
Greater access to mobile broadband networks slowed the growth of fixed-broadband subscriptions, which increased to 10.8 percent of the global population in 2015, compared with 10.3 percent in 2014.
The report found that fixed broadband penetration in developing nations and least developed countries (LDCs) are significantly lower — 7.1 and 0.5 percent, respectively — than in developed nations where 29 percent of the population has access to fixed broadband, according to the report.
The average price for fixed broadband services is 14 percent higher in developing countries than in developed nations, making it the least affordable option for people in developing countries, the report said.
The ITU projects that 56 percent of the world's households will have access to the Internet by 2020, which would exceed the ITU's goal of connecting 55 percent of the world before the end of the decade.
In 2015, household access to the Internet increased to 46.4 percent, versus 43.9 percent the year prior, according to the report.
Least developed countries lag behind other countries in access and usage of information and communications technologies (ICT) and “additional measures may be needed to stimulate faster growth in Internet access” to such areas, the report said.
The report urged those countries that lag behind to consider regulatory changes, investment programs and new public-private partnerships to expand access for citizens of least developed countries.
The ITU said South Korea leads the world in terms of ICT development due to its early adoption of ICTs and its support for advanced mobile broadband and fiber optic cable connections.
The number of South Koreans with subscriptions to mobile cellular subscriptions rose significantly over the past year and nearly all of the country's household have Internet access, ITU said.
Denmark fell to second place in this year's rankings due to a lower proportion of households with Internet access and a decrease in Denmark's fixed telephone subscriptions.
Iceland, the United Kingdom and Sweden rounded out the top five rankings based on an ICT Development Index (IDI), which uses 11 indicators of access, use and skill to establish one benchmark measure. The U.S. fell one slot to 15th place.
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