Thursday, September 06, 2007

UNCTAD Underscores Importance of Broadband...More on Telephony


China, India lead surge in mobile subscribers: report

GENEVA (AFP) — Asia's booming economic powerhouses of China and India are leading a fresh surge in mobile phone use with nearly 200 million new subscribers between them in the first quarter of 2007, the United Nations telecommunications agency said on Tuesday.

China added 87 million new subscribers in the period and India about 110 million, the International Telecommunications Union said in a report.

Some 61 percent of the world's mobile subscribers are in developing countries, with emerging economic powers China, India, Brazil and Russia at the forefront, the ITU said.

"Growth in the ICT (information and communication technology) sector has been nothing short of buoyant in the past year," the agency said.

By the end of 2006, there were a total of nearly 4 billion mobile and fixed line subscribers and over 1 billion internet users worldwide," it added in the report on progress towards "next generation" phone and computer networks.

It cautioned however that the world's least developed countries (LDCs) are lagging behind both in terms of mobile phone penetration and high-speed internet connections such as broadband.

Only 22 out of 50 LDCs offered broadband in 2006, and users in these countries often pay extortionate rates for relatively low-speed connections, the ITU said.

The UN's Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) warned last November that broadband is becoming so vital for businesses that it can be seen as a new utility comparable to water and electricity.

The growing importance of high speed Internet access is "disturbing news" for the developing world where broadband access is scarce, because technology is exerting an ever greater influence on global business trends, UNCTAD warned.

UNCTAD's report showed that forty-eight out of 71 developing countries who submitted data on the subject said that broadband penetration rates were under 1.0 percent, and even China had a rate of only 2.9 percent.