The mobile revolution in Asia-Pacific isn’t showing signs of slowing down. The GSM Association released a report today that reveals the region is home to half of the world’s mobile subscribers, and will continue to be one of the world’s fastest growing mobile markets through 2020 and even beyond.
According to the report, there were 1.7 billion unique mobile subscribers in the Asia-Pacific region as of the end of 2013, out of a total global subscriber base of 3.4 billion. China, India, Japan and Indonesia had the largest number of subscribers, ranked according to their sizes. In a nod to the diverse nature of the region though, subscriber penetration was above 90 percent of the population in markets including Japan, but below 15 percent in countries such as Myanmar.
In China alone, there were 630 million unique mobile subscribers at the end of 2013 — that’s about 46 percent of the country’s population. With the habit of using more than one SIM card or device, GSMA notes that there were 1.13 billion active mobile connections in China at the end of 2013, which means one subscriber held 1.79 SIM cards on average.
GSMA also revealed that 500 million Chinese citizens were subscribed to mobile internet services at the end of 2013, which means the remaining 130 million mobile subscribers only used their connections for voice calls and text messages. Given the estimation that there were over 600 million Chinese internet users in 2013, this means more than 80 percent of those online connected via mobile.
“This demonstrates the critical role that mobile networks play in connecting the population to the internet,” GSMA says in its press statement.
In the meantime, users in the Asia-Pacific region are switching to 3G/4G mobile broadband networks. As of the end of 2013, just over a quarter of the 3.4 billion mobile connections in the region — referring to a SIM connection rather than a unique subscriber — were 3G, while 3 percent ran on 4G. GSMA predicts that this will rise to 34 percent and 28 percent respectively, out of the 4.8 billion total mobile connections forecast to be in the region by 2020.
GSMA predicts that the number of Asia-Pacific mobile subscribers will grow by 5.5 percent a year until 2020, hitting 2.4 billion. However, the growth rate will likely be overtaken by sub-saharan Africa, the company notes.
It also notes that growth of unique mobile subscribers is now largely coming from developing markets, which are expected to tack on nearly 880 million subscribers over the next seven years, compared to an expected 56 million new subscribers in developed markets over the same period.
The mobile industry contributed $864 billion to Asia-Pacific’s gross domestic product (GDP) for last year — or about 4.7 percent of the total — and directly supported 3.7 million jobs. GSMA predicts that by 2020, mobile will contribute over 6.9 percent to the region’s GDP and directly provide more than 6.1 million jobs.
Headline image via Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images