Worldwide mobile penetration rates are expected to reach as high as 95 per cent by 2013 from the current level of 46 per cent, according to a recent report by Tariff Consultancy.
The firm's Emerging Mobile Markets 2008 Report analysed data from 34 countries, including emerging markets in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Mobile penetration levels have already exceeded 100 per cent in developed countries such as the UK, but global levels are still relatively low.
The research revealed that emerging markets will be the key to growth in the industry.
Tariff Consultancy said that the 2.1 billion mobile subscribers currently estimated to be in the 34 countries examined in the report is expected to rise to 4.3 billion by 2013, accounting for around two-thirds of global mobile users.
China and India are expected to remain the two single largest markets throughout the forecast period owing to their large populations, but the fastest growth in new mobile subscribers over the next five years is set to be in Afghanistan, Iraq, Cambodia and Indonesia.
"The rapid growth of mobile penetration across the world indicates that these markets will approach maturity more quickly than previously thought," said Margrit Sessions, managing director of Tariff Consultancy.
"By the end of 2013 we are likely to see one SIM card for every person as the norm in most countries."
The growth of mobile data, and the deployment of 3G and HSDPA mobile networks across all regions, are expected to be major drivers for the surge in mobile penetration.
Sessions believes that pricing policies will need to change over time, and that emerging market mobile operators are likely to see growth from inclusive flat-rate deals for both voice and data which will drive usage, as has been the case in developed markets.
"The imminent launch of mobile broadband data services provides an exciting new revenue stream as users are able to break free of low-speed fixed or dial-up access which will continue to have relatively poor levels of penetration," she said.
"Mobile is going to become the standard for accessing the internet in many of these countries from now on."
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