Mobile services in the developing world are moving rapidly to 3G and 4G services

Half the world's population connected to mobile Internet by 2020

Half of the world’s population will be using mobile devices to access the Internet by 2020, according to new data released by GSMA Intelligence at the GSMA Mobile 360-Africa event.

It is calculated that there were 2.2 billion mobile Internet subscribers in 2013, representing approximately 30 per cent of the global population. GSMA Intelligence forecasts that an additional 1.6 billion citizens worldwide will become mobile Internet users over the next six years, bringing the total number to 3.8 billion, or around half of the world’s expected population in 2020.

“Our new findings underline how mobile is now the gateway to the Internet for billions of citizens across the world and will be responsible for connecting millions of currently ‘offline’ global citizens to the Internet in the years to 2020 and beyond,” said Anne Bouverot, director general of the GSMA. “Developing innovative ways to accelerate digital inclusion in the form of affordable mobile Internet access is now a key focus for the GSMA, its operator members and the broader mobile industry ecosystem.”

Almost all of the additional mobile Internet users expected over the next six years will come from the developing world. According to GSMA Intelligence, the number of mobile Internet users in the developing world will double from 1.5 billion in 2013 to 3 billion by 2020, rising from 25 per cent of the developing world population to 45 per cent over the period. In Sub-Saharan Africa, just 17 per cent of the population were mobile Internet subscribers in 2013, but penetration is forecast to increase to 37 per cent by 2020.

Many users in the developing world still access the mobile Internet via 2G connections. However, a rapid technology migration is currently underway towards mobile broadband (3G/4G) Internet. In 2013, 900 million of the 2.2 billion mobile Internet subscribers connected via 2G, while 1.3 billion connected via mobile broadband. By 2020, it is forecast that, of the 3.8 billion total mobile Internet users globally, the number of 2G mobile Internet subscribers will shrink to 800 million and mobile broadband Internet users will have more than doubled to reach 3 billion.

“Mobile technology is already playing an invaluable role in the social, economic and environmental development of the developing world; the mobile Internet has the potential to trigger a new wave of growth and innovation if we can remove the barriers to digital inclusion,” added Bouverot.

To download the Digital Inclusion report, visit

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