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Mobile broadband ‘fastest-growing technology ever’

Three times as many people around the world will have a mobile broadband subscription by the end of the year as have a fixed-line broadband subscription, according to the United Nations broadband commission.

The International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) 2013 ‘State of Broadband’ report says that mobile broadband subscriptions are rising at 30% a year – resulting in 2.1 billion mobile broadband subscriptions by the end of this year – representing a third of all mobile cellular subscriptions.

The ITU report was presented at the latest Broadband Commission for Digital Development meeting in New York.

South Korea remains the world’s leading broadband territory, says the ITU, with 97% broadband penetration. Switzerland has more fixed broadband subscriptions per head than anywhere else, with more than 40%.

The ITU says there are now 70 countries on earth where over half the population is online. The top 10 countries for the highest penetration of internet use are all in Europe, except for New Zealand in eighth and Qatar in 10th.

In contrast, over 90% of people in the world’s 49 least-developed countries are still unconnected. Fixed broadband remains unaffordable (costing more than 5% of income) to 3.9 billion people worldwide, with mobile broadband unaffordable to 2.6 billion.

The ITU says that fixed broadband prices as a share of gross national income per head have dropped by 82% over the past five years.

The ITU and UNESCO set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010. In 2011 it set four clear targets for 2015:

* Making broadband policy universal
* Making broadband affordable
* Connecting homes to broadband
* Getting people online.

The Commission’s mission statement says that “high-speed, high-capacity broadband connections to the internet are an essential element in modern society, conferring broad social and economic benefits. Without broadband infrastructure and services, developing countries risk exclusion from participation in the burgeoning global digital economy. The Commission aims to promote the adoption of broadband-friendly practices and policies, so all the world’s people can take advantage of the benefits of broadband.”

UN Broadband Commission: State of Broadband 2013.

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