From a recent press release
Worldwide mobile subscriptions will rise from 3.9 billion in 2008 to 5.6 billion in 2013, according to a new Strategy Analytics report.
Sorry guys, you're forecast has fallen into the same trap as almost all the five year forecasts I've seen since 1995. About the only credible analyst's statement in this area is one by Mark Newman, head of research at Informa, who said (in 2007):
The mobile industry has constantly outperformed even the most optimistic forecasts for subscriber growth.
The problem is analysts' forecasts are consistently pessimistic. Consider Strategy Analytics' numbers. They project 1.7 billion new subscribers in 5 years (60 months). By every measurement I've seen, mobile subscription growth has been over 50M per month at least since 2004-2005. For example, 2 billion subscriptions in September 2005 and 3.3 billion subscriptions in November 2007 comes out at 52 million new subscriptions per month. If you believe Strategy Analytics' forecast of 3.9 billion by the end of 2008, that's 54 million more per month for the balance of 2008. If we merely sustain current rates, we will hit Strategy Analytics' December 2013 forecast in just 31 months, i.e. in July 2011. So they expect current growth rates to decline rather substantially in coming years.
Why would they think this? I haven't spoken with anyone at Strategy Analytics, but in discussions with other analysts over the past ten+ years, a frequent answer is "current growth rates will have to slow as we're running out of people who can afford mobile phone service." Wrong! This is the view of someone who doesn't understand Moore's law. Whether it's transistor density or wireless performance, innovation drives exponential improvements in price-performance. Per-capita GDP is improving slowly, but the cost of mobile phone infrastructure and mobile handsets is dropping substantially every year. Today, those at the bottom of the pyramid are in a position to at least use a phone and increasingly to acquire their own mobile phone.
In addition to innovation ― at work since the introduction of mobile services ― political obstacles are falling in many countries. Since 2000 it's become clear, mobile phone adoption brings significant economic advantages, and the best way to get mobile phone adoption is to attract multiple competitive mobile phone operators to your country. Increasingly, even the most backward dictators are realizing there's more money to be made taxing multiple competitive mobile phone services than in keeping all the profits from one government phone company. So country after country are encouraging competitive mobile phone operators and allowing substantial foreign investment. This political trend serves to increase mobile phone adoption rates.
Of course, adoption rates will saturate at some point. When might that be? The best evidence we have is for 2G and 2.5G services in developed countries. It appears things slow down a bit around 120 subscriptions per 100 people. Of course this may change with 3G. It's too early to tell.
Technology adoption generally follow an S-curve:
If saturation is at 120 or above, and we're currently around 50, we have at least another five years of rapid growth. Perhaps a five year forecast made in 2013 will be justified in projecting a decrease in adoption rates. But by then we'll also understand the impact of 3G. Who knows? 3G may drive things even faster.
Or perhaps by 2013, I will have a single mobile data subscription for a gateway device on my body, that in turn provides connectivity for all my other devices.
In any event, I expect 5.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions by the summer of 2011 and more than 6 billion by mid 2012.