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The world still has some way to go before it is fully mobile, with global subscriber penetration standing at just 45 per cent despite the huge strides made in countries such as China and India, according to a new report from industry body The GSMA.

Global penetration based on total connections will exceed 100 per cent by next year, however, the report pointed to a disparity between the number of mobile connections and individual mobile subscribers, thanks to inactive SIMs and multiple SIM ownership. The average Joe apparently uses 1.85 SIM cards.

The total number of mobile subscribers worldwide will be 3.2 billion by Q4 2012, rising to 4 billion in the next five years, with around a third of the planet’s seven billion-strong population currently unconnected, GSMA said.

Unsurprisingly, Europe was said to have the highest mobile penetration in the world, with the UK, Denmark, Finland, Germany and others averaging almost 90 per cent subscriber penetration.

The majority of Chinese still aren’t mobed up. Subscriber penetration there will grow from 43 per cent to 52 per cent over the next five years, GSMA said.

Most analyst stats point out that the majority of those that are connected in the People’s Republic use feature phones, although shipments of smartphones are apparently now in the ascendancy.

Accelerating the move to more powerful, internet-connected devices are local handset makers who are increasingly targeting these feature phone users with sub-1000 yuan (£99) devices.

In another huge mobile market, India, around half a billion people in rural areas are unconnected and growth is likely to be slow, GSMA cautioned.

Nevertheless, news that over two billion people are currently mobile-less will be welcomed by network operators and handset makers alike, even though some of these will be unable or unwilling to get connected.

“In developing markets, where there is clearly an opportunity for growth for the mobile industry, SIM per user patterns are influenced by cost-conscious, low-usage consumers who tend to accumulate prepaid SIM cards depending on the latest and most affordable prepaid tariffs,” said GSMA director general Anne Bouverot in a canned comment.

“In developed markets, SIM per user patterns are influenced by the ownership of smartphones, tablets and other devices connected to mobile broadband networks and through the wider availability of shared data plans.” ®

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