More mobiles than people
SOMETIME this year, the world will cross a threshold: there will be more mobile device connections than there are people.
That doesn't mean every soul on the planet will have a mobile phone. But data released on Monday by GSMA, an association of cell operators whose Mobile World Congress just opened for a four-day run in Barcelona, shows the total number of mobile connections surging to 7.4 billion this year, up from 6.8 billion in 2012. The world population sits at about 7.1 billion, and is growing far more slowly.
Part of the rise in mobile connections results from customers having more than one at a time. The average user of mobile services - there were 3.2 billion worldwide last year - had at least two connections, according to Monday's report by GSMA.
Many people have both a mobile phone and a tablet or e-reader, each with its own wireless connection.
The Mobile World Congress, an annual event expected to draw 70,000 people, is largely devoted to wringing even more money out of one of the world's great growth industries. That means new devices, new apps, new ways to reach the remotest corner of every potential market. Much attention is being devoted to the development of systems that let customers make payments from their mobiles.
Whoever solves the riddle - finding a way to get people to easily and elegantly use their mobile devices as mobile wallets - stands to win billions of customers.