There are now five billion mobile subscribers in the world, according to new data, with the number set to rise to 5.7 billion by 2020.

The GSMA, whose research arm tracks the number of unique subscribers, said 67 percent of the global population is now connected to a mobile service.

China accounts for 1.08 billion (21 percent) of the world’s subscribers currently, while Europe has 465 million (nine percent).

Europe is the most highly penetrated region with 86 percent of citizens subscribed to a mobile service, while sub-Saharan Africa is the least penetrated region at 44 percent.

The GSMA said it had taken just four years to move from four billion to five billion subscribers.

Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA, commented: “Reaching the five billion subscriber milestone is a tremendous achievement for an industry that is only a few decades old, and reflects the many billions of dollars that mobile operators have invested in networks, services and spectrum over many years.”

Looking forward, the industry body predicts that 700,000 more people will subscribe to a mobile service by 2020, meaning almost 75 percent of the world’s population will be connected.

India, which accounts for 730 million subscribers currently, is expected to account for the largest share of growth over this period – around 30 percent.

Granryd said: “Subscriber growth opportunities over the coming years will be focused on connecting mainly rural, low-income populations; operators are developing a range of sustainable solutions to deliver affordable connectivity to underserved communities.

“Meanwhile, in mature markets where subscriber growth is slowing, operators are evolving their business models to capture increasing value within the expanding mobile ecosystem, and providing the platform for a new digital world as we enter the 5G era.”

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