The latest GSMA annual State of Mobile Internet Connectivity Report has highlighted that 4.3 billion people were using mobile internet at the end of 2021 – an enormous number in anyone’s estimation, but still only slightly above half (55%) of the world’s population.

Putting it another way 3.2 billion people worldwide fall into the usage gap, they are covered by a mobile broadband network – which 95% of the worlds population now are – but other reasons prevent them from getting online.

This is the challenge for digital inclusion, addressing a raft of issues ranging from affordability (especially of handsets) and lack of literacy and digital skills through to safety and security concerns that are preventing people from getting online.

The issue is particularly acute in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) where mobile is frequently the main and sometimes only form of internet access.

GSMA Director General, Mats Granryd said “It’s time to make real strides on the journey to reach the 3.2 billion people who are not yet using mobile internet despite living within the footprint of mobile broadband networks. We call on governments and organisations worldwide to work alongside the mobile industry and make digital inclusion a genuine priority. Removing barriers to mobile internet adoption will boost economic recovery, improve social mobility and gender equality, and transform the lives of millions worldwide.”

There is without doubt a mountain still to climb, but despite this 2021 was notable as it marked the first time that half the population of low-middle income countries were seen using mobile internet.

Almost 300 million people came online in the past year with most of the new users of mobile internet emanating from low-middle income countries – home to 94% of the unconnected population – whilst the percentage of people outside the reach of mobile broadband networks fell from 19% in 2015 to 5% at the end of 2021. That 5% however means there are still 400 million people worldwide living in areas not covered by a mobile broadband network.

Delivering ubiquitous connectivity for the hardest-to-reach is the subject for a panel discussion at the Total Telecom Congress on the 1-2 November 2022. Join Anuradha Udunuwara from Sri Lanka Telecom, Chris Voudouris of Neos Networks, Dean Bubley founder of Disruptive Analysis, and Lucie Smith from MNO JV Digital Mobile Spectrum (DMSL) as they discuss rural connectivity challenges in both developed and developing markets, the technology mix and commercial considerations. Register at

Related content:
Connecting America: I think of it as accommodating basic equity, not a digital divide, says AT&T’s Stankey
Bridging the North-South digital divide