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Worldwide Smartphone Ownership Surpasses 50%: Insights from GSMA’s Annual Report

The recently published sixth annual State of Mobile Internet Connectivity Report by GSMA brings to light several groundbreaking analyses, including a significant rise in global smartphone users and in-depth examinations by device type.

Over half of the world’s population, amounting to 4.3 billion people, now possesses a smartphone, marking a significant milestone, according to the GSMA’s State of Mobile Internet Connectivity Report 2023 (SOMIC).

Smartphone Owners and Mobile Internet Adoption

Smartphone owners are not only more aware of mobile internet services but also exhibit higher adoption rates. Almost 4 billion out of the 4.6 billion global mobile internet users access it through smartphones, contributing to nearly 49% of the global population. In contrast, 600 million individuals, constituting 8% of the world’s population, access the internet using feature phones.

Regional Disparities in Mobile Internet Access by Device Type

For the first time, the SOMIC 2023 report delves into mobile internet connections based on device type, revealing noteworthy regional variations. Approximately 69% of smartphone users accessing mobile broadband do so with 4G-enabled devices, with 17% using 5G-enabled devices, particularly prevalent in mature markets like North America and East Asia & Pacific.

Conversely, in Sub-Saharan Africa, 69% of smartphones used for internet access are only 3G-capable. In the Middle East and North Africa, this figure stands at 33%. This highlights that 2G and 3G networks remain crucial for coverage in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

GSMA’s Connectivity Insights and Challenges

The GSMA’s annual SOMIC report, presented ahead of MWC Kigali 2023, analyzes global connectivity trends since 2015, providing insights into mobile internet usage and barriers to adoption in LMICs. The report identifies key challenges that must be addressed to ensure universal internet access.

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Bridging the Usage Gap: Challenges and Progress

While global mobile internet usage has reached 57%, a substantial 3.4 billion people remain unconnected. The usage gap, representing those living in areas covered by a mobile broadband network but not using mobile internet, has reduced slightly from 40% in 2021 to 38% in 2022.

Regional Disparities and Digital Divides Persist

Regional discrepancies persist, with Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia having the least connected populations, experiencing usage gaps of 59% and 52%, respectively. In LMICs, rural adults are 29% less likely to use mobile internet than their urban counterparts, and women are 19% less likely than men.

Addressing Barriers to Internet Adoption

Barriers to internet adoption include digital skills, literacy, safety concerns, and accessibility. Two-thirds of individuals within mobile broadband-covered areas not using mobile internet do not own a mobile phone, emphasizing the importance of tackling handset affordability issues.

Slowing Growth Rate and Future Prospects

While 200 million people adopted mobile internet in 2022, the growth rate has slowed compared to the previous years, indicating a shift in adoption trends.

In conclusion, the GSMA’s comprehensive report sheds light on the evolving landscape of mobile internet connectivity, emphasizing the need for targeted efforts to bridge regional gaps, address digital literacy challenges, and ensure inclusive access for all.

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