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Calculating the Mobile Users vs Subscriptions

Informa calculates that users of mobile phone services number fewer than 2.3 billion, even as total mobile service subscriptions have reached 3 billion worldwide.

Subscription growth is being driven by the expansion of mobile networks in developing markets but also by more and more people choosing to own a second or third service subscription.

According to Informa's forecasts, individual users of mobile services will not reach 3 billion until the end of 2009, by which time subscriptions are forecast to reach 4 billion.

A recent report published by Informa Telecoms & Media entitled "Multiple SIMs: Quantifying the phenomenon taking mobile penetration beyond 100 percent," found there were approximately 1.32 subscriptions to every mobile subscriber worldwide at the end of 2006 -- i.e. approximately one in four service subscriptions is someone's secondary or tertiary subscription.

The number of multiple-SIM users is expected to continue to rise as operators seek to extract incremental revenues from customers by offering second SIMs for cheaper call rates, particular data services, or roaming.

Even in Western Europe, where multiple-SIM ownership has propelled the mobile penetration rate past 100 percent, subscriptions continue to increase. That's truly amazing, by any standard of the imagination about upside market development potential.

As revenue is spread across more service subscriptions and as mobile telephony is extended to more and more people on low incomes in developing markets, ARPU is continuing to fall. Expansion of the subscription base continues to offer potential for overall revenue growth, however, even as the price-per-minute for traditional mobile voice services declines.

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