Global mobile internet users expected to hit 5.5 billion by 2030 – GSMA report

Michael Akuchie
Africa still has the slowest internet speed globally Despite launch of 5G and Starlink

A document titled The Mobile Economy 2023 predicts that the world’s mobile internet users will reach 5.5 billion by 2030. This represents a penetration rate of 64%, 9% more than 2022 (55%). Published by GSMA, the report also reveals other insights into the mobile connectivity industry.

The importance of internet connectivity to the world can not be exhausted. With the internet, people worldwide can interact, build businesses, and grow the economy. That’s why the government and telecom companies strive to increase internet penetration in every region. 

Mobile connectivity continues to be a lifeline for society, helping the most vulnerable people in areas affected by conflict and natural disasters to stay connected. It is also enabling advanced connectivity capabilities needed by verticals to innovate amid diverse political, social and macroeconomic headwinds,” said the document’s executive summary. 

The report also expects the volume of unique mobile subscribers to hit 6.3 billion by 2030, representing a penetration rate of 73%. For context, there were 5.4 billion subscribers in 2022. It is worth mentioning that GSMA expects markets with low penetration like Sub-Saharan Africa to represent about half of fresh mobile subscribers worldwide between 2020 and 2030. 

GSMA also forecasts that smartphone connections will jump from 76% in 2022 to 92% in 2030. Telco operator revenues and investments are predicted to hit $1.20 trillion by 2030 from $1.07 trillion in 2022. Regarding 5G penetration, the report anticipates the volume to reach 54% in 2023 from 12% in 2030. 

GSMA The Mobile Economy

With the increase of 5G connections, GSMA also forecasts a significant decrease in 4G connections. According to GSMA’s study, 4G penetration will drop from 60% in 2022 to 36%. Given that 5G is the most advanced offering in internet connectivity, it is expected that older versions like 3G and 4G will have fewer connections. 

Read also: Nigeria’s mobile gender gap: 27% of female smartphone owners do not use the internet

Sub-Saharan Africa smartphone adoption to hit 87% in 2030 

Unlike the regions of Europe and North America where smartphones are common, feature phones remain a mainstay of Sub-Saharan Africa. Corroborating this claim is a Statista report finding that over half of the 40 to 50 million mobile phones shipped to Africa were basic. Despite this trend, GSMA predicts that Sub-Saharan Africa’s smartphone adoption will surge from 51% to 87% in 2030. 

Regarding the network types prevalent in the region, the report expects 2G and 3G  connections to drop in 2023. For instance, 2G which, as of 2022, accounted for 22% of the region’s mobile connections will dip to a paltry 2%. 3G representing 55% of the area’s connections will slump to 35%. 

While the 2G and 3G connections are expected to drop, their newer counterparts 4G and 5G will increase. 4G will grow from 22% in 2022 to 47% in 2030. Regarding 5G, the volume of connections is set to grow from less than 1% to 16% in 2030. 

The report further states that 5G will surpass 4G to become the dominant mobile technology in 2029. 229 commercial networks were live as of January 2023 while more than 700 5G smartphones have been released. Interestingly 200 of those 5G-enabled smartphones were launched in 2022.

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