mobile broadband and the digital divide

Mobile broadband adoption plays a critical part in extending broadband infrastructure – it is frequently the most effective way to bring remote or rural communities online, something that addresses many societies in the developing world.

broadband is already mobile

On a global basis, mobile broadband already surpasses fixed line broadband at a ratio of almost 3:1. “By 2016, over 80 percent of broadband is expected to be mobile and many people's first and only access to the Internet will be via a mobile device,” the Broadband Commission claims.

Cisco estimates the number of mobile-connected devices “exceeded the number of people on earth in 2014, and by 2019 there will be nearly 1.5 mobile devices per capita.”

Mobile data traffic is already almost 30 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000, according to Cisco. Global mobile data traffic reached 2.5 exabytes per month at the end of 2014, up from 1.5 exabytes per month at the end of 2013.

Morgan Stanley Research reports the fastest growth in number of Internet users is taking place in developing markets; that international smartphone growth hit 20 percent in 2014, (higher in developing markets); and that mobile data traffic is up 81 percent, driven by mobile video usage.

mind the gap

The truth is that mobile broadband can be critical to bridging the digital divide between those who have and those who lack access.

This is what we see when we look at statistics for mobile use as a percentage of Web use by region as identified by KPCB in May 2014:

Mobile use as a percentage of Web use by region (KPCB)
Location May 2013 May 2014
Africa 18% 38%
asia 23% 37%
oceania 12% 17%
south America 6% 17%
europe 8% 16%
north america 11% 19%
global 14% 25%

Cisco in February 2015 claimed there will be 5.2 billion global mobile users by 2019, up from 4.3 billion in 2014, while average mobile connection speeds will increase 2.4-fold, from 1.7 Mbps in 2014 to 4.0 Mbps by 2019.

Clearly mobile is critical to connecting the rest of the planet – and this kind of connectivity has key significance in that it will enable and empower developing economies to improve their economic activity.

For example, in Africa mobile money has become a vital way of banking the unbanked, driving innovation and boosting economic growth. Worldwide there are more than 203 million mobile money accounts – Orange Money moves $400,000 per month across its network alone.

Read more about what Orange Business is doing with mobile, including our work with mobile innovations.

Jon Evans

Jon Evans is a highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men's interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.