January 27, 2011

UN Reports 2 Billion Net Users Globally

Worldwide Internet usage has ballooned reaching an impressive 2 billion users, the UN telecommunications agency's head said on Wednesday.

The number of mobile phone subscriptions has also reached a symbolic threshold -- five billion, Hamadoun Toure, secretary general of the UN's International Telecommunications Union (ITU), told AFP.

"At the beginning of the year 2000 there were only 500 million mobile subscriptions globally and 250 million Internet users," Toure said.

"By the beginning of this year 2011 those numbers have mushroomed to over five billion mobile users and two billion subscribers to the Internet," he added.

A statistician at ITU told the French news agency that the figure for mobile phones related to subscriptions and not individual users.

New data posted online by ITU showed that the estimated number of Internet users had reached 2.08 billion by the end of 2010, compared to 1.86 billion by the end of 2009.

The estimated of global mobile phone subscriptions reached 5.28 billion in 2010, compared to 4.66 billion a year earlier.

"The very high growth in mobile (phones) is slowing and we're reaching the end of double digit growth in mobile," Susan Teltscher, ITU head of market information and statistics, told AFP.

As for the Internet, nearly 1 in three people in the world use it. Fifty-seven percent of those users are in developing countries.

The number of fixed broadband Internet subscriptions worldwide passed the 500 million mark for the first time in 2010, reaching 555 million, while the number of mobile broadband subscriptions reached 940 million.

Asia and the Pacific added more than 100 million Internet users to the global total to bring the number of users in that region to 857 million -- largely due to China, Teltscher said.

But the highest density of online surfers is found in Europe, followed by the Americas, former Soviet states and Arab nations, according to the ITU data. The most rapid online growth in recent years has occurred in the latter two regions.

The estimated number of Internet users in Arab states has reached 88 million, doubling in just four years. The Commonwealth of Independent States grew even faster -- 127 million people online last year, compare to 51 million in 2007, according to ITU estimates.

"They have been catching up because they had lower penetration rates before," said Teltscher.


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