A new study from the GSMA showed that 54% of the global population – roughly 4.3 billion people – now owns a smartphone

The GSMA’s recently published State of Mobile Internet Connectivity Report (SOMIC) has revealed the steady growth of global smartphone penetration, with over half the world’s population now owning a mobile device capable of accessing the mobile internet.

Indeed, 57% of the world’s population is now connected to the mobile internet, up from 55% at the end of 2021.

According to the report, 69% of smartphone users accessed the mobile internet using a 4G-enabled device, with 17% connecting using a 5G-enabled device.

As you would expect, this proliferation of 4G and 5G phones is largely centred on more developed markets, with developing markets still relying more heavily on 3G and even 2G technology.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the presence of 4G-capable smartphones remains much lower, with the majority (69%) of mobile internet users doing so via a 3G-capable device. A similar story, though less pronounced, could be found in the Middle East & North Africa segment, where 33% still using devices only capable of 3G.

But despite this progress, it appears that the growth of mobile internet users is slowing, increasing by just 200 million in 2022 versus 300 million in both 2021 and 2020.

This is despite there still being a huge potential for growth in users, particularly in low and middle-income countries (LMIC)s; in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, for example, 59% and 52% of the populations, respectively, still do not use mobile internet, despite being covered by a mobile network.

Overall, global mobile network coverage now stands at around 95%, though 3.4 billion people remain unconnected to the mobile internet.

As the world continues to grow more and more connected, the challenges associated with the digital divide are becoming more and more stark.

Is the global telecoms industry doing enough to shrink the digital divide and improve access to effective and affordable devices? Join the discussion at this year’s Total Telecom Congress live from Amsterdam

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