Asian growth drives global internet past 2bn users

The UN recently announced that the number of internet users globally now numbers two billion, up almost 10% in the last year, while the organisation estimates that there are five billion mobile phone users worldwide. Both significant increases as outlined by this AFP article excerpted below:

Fresh data posted online by the agency showed that the estimated number of Internet users had reached 2.08 billion by the end of 2010, compared to 1.86 billion a year earlier.

The estimated number of cellphone subscriptions worldwide reached 5.28 billion at the end of the last year, compared to 4.66 billion at the end of 2009.

“At the beginning of the year 2000 there were only 500 million mobile subscriptions globally and 250 million Internet users,” he [Hamadoun Toure, head of the UN’s telecommunications agency] said.

However, with an average of one in three surfing the internet worldwide the ITU is predicting that growth is will slow and the world has “reach(ed) the end of the double digital growth” in mobile subscriptions too.

Many of the new mobile subscriptions came from developing countries, particularly Asia which is described as spearheading a shift into cyberspace.

Fifty-seven percent of the users are in developing countries, three years after the ITU reported that Internet use there overtook developed nations.

The number of fixed broadband internet subscriptions in the world passed the half a billion mark for the first time in 2010, reaching 555 million, while the number of mobile broadband subscriptions surged to 940 million.

Asia and the Pacific spearheaded the shift into cyberspace, adding more than 100 million internet users to the global tally to bring the number of Internet users in the region to 857 million — largely due to China, Teltscher noted.

But the highest density of online surfers in the population is found in Europe, followed by the Americas, former Soviet states and Arab nations, according to the ITU data.

In Asia mobile usage and internet access are as closer to being synonymous than anyone else in the world.

A lack of fixed line infrastructure makes a mobile device a growing choice for regular internet surfing, both in terms of reliability and cost, yet smartphones currently represent only a niche market in the region. As public interest in mobile and internet matures and accelerates, smartphone devices – particularly entry level, lower budget devices such as Android-supported handsets – are likely to see significant gains over the longer term.

Asia is likely to be responsible for increasing mobile internet usage, as a global average, next – though it already dominates the medium in proportional terms as I blogged a couple of months ago.

The chart from Pingdom, included in my original blog post is below indicating that, as a percentage of total internet usage, mobile internet usage is highest in Asia.

Related, more global stats on the digital side of things:

  • Deloitte estimates worldwide social network membership will reach about 1 billion this year
  • meaning total social network ARPU should equal around $4 billion
  • in addition, social networks may deliver more than 2 trillion ads this year, yet Deloitte expects social networks to only produce less than 1% of global ad spend during 2011

There’s likely to be more on the subject of digital spend as a proportion of totally ad revenue in Asia in upcoming posts.