New mobile phone subscribers in 2005 will reach the highest level ever, exceeding 380 million, industry watchers predicted today.
2004 was already a record year, with net additions surpassing 335 million, but growth in 2005 is set to exceed this level by 16 per cent, according to the latest forecast from Informa Telecoms & Media.
The analyst firm noted that this "phenomenal growth" in key developing markets is not being offset by a downturn in more mature markets, where many operators have been able to target new niche segments such as the under-14 age group.
In both cases a substantial proportion of growth is also attributable to existing customers buying secondary subscriptions, a trend that shows little signs of slowing in the near term.
Reductions in access fees in rapidly expanding markets, such as Nigeria and Mexico, are expected to have an impact on short-term growth.
Numerous short-term marketing promotions by operators around the world are also pushing up subscription numbers, with some operators offering Sim cards virtually free of charge to customers in the prepaid sector who sign up friends and family.
Informa predicts a slowdown in 2006 as the frenzied growth in major markets such as Russia cools.
The long-term outlook for the industry is positive, however, with achievable penetration levels for key markets such as India revised upwards in Informa's latest forecasts.
This is in light of falling handset prices and operator consolidation leading to further investment in expanding cellular coverage into less urbanised areas.
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