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Global mobile data users to exceed 115m

GSM networks to reach 1bn users

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More than 115 million people will pay mobile phone networks for data services around the world this month, market watcher EMC forecast this week.

And a billion of us will make phone calls on a GSM network this quarter, according to the GSM Association a worldwide trade organisation.

EMC's figures take in active users of GPRS, i-mode, CDMA 2000 and multimedia messaging services, including ringtone downloads and the like. Yes, some of these applications leverage data networks, but we'd argue that they're not 'true' mobile data applications but extensions of the voice market.

Either way, there are a lot of folk using data networks. January 2004's forecast represents a 13 per cent increase over September 2003's total of 100 million users or thereabouts, itself 14 per cent more than the number EMC recorded for June 2003.

That growth has come from Asian users, most of them in Japan and South Korea, where online gambling and "adult content" appear to be driving the popularity of mobile data services. Email and messaging are popular applications, too.

Europe has a long way to go to catch up. EMC calculates there were some 16 million users of European GPRS networks last September. That compares with 38.5 million i-mode subscribers in Japan alone.

GPRS sits on top of existing GSM networks. Globally over 970 million people were using GSM at the end of last month, 180 million of them using it for the first time in 2003. That, says the GSM Association, represents 80 per cent of the 227 million new digital mobile phones sold around the world in 2003.

Some 70 million of those new users live in the Asia Pacific region, with 42.8 million of them in China - just a head of Europe, which saw its userbase rise by 42 million. The North American GSM market, by contrast, grew by just ten million users, as did the Indian market. Russia managed to provide 16 million new users. ®

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