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Global mobile phone subscriptions doubled over the last four years to reach 1.5bn by the middle of 2004, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) said yesterday. The growth in cell phone usage - particularly in developing countries - means that approximately 25 percent of the world's population now has a mobile.

The ITU's annual report said that growth in mobile phone usage is outstripping the rate of increase in both fixed line telecoms and internet access. The UN agency reports the number of fixed lines has grown from 1bn to 1.185bn since the beginning of 2000. The ITU estimates 690m people have access to the internet.

The mobile market reached $414bn in 2003, a tenfold increase since 1993, while over the same ten year period the overall telecoms market has grown by an average of 8.8 per cent to record $1.1tn revenues last year, Reuters reports.

Mobile revenues are expected to exceed those of fixed-line telecoms for the first time in 2004. Mobile phones are much easier to install than fixed line networks where an adequate infrastructure is not already in place. This helps to explain the strong growth in mobile phone use in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the former Soviet Union. ®

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