Ovum: One SIM per person on the planet, but still too many unconnected

London, 9 February 2016 – Global mobile penetration reached 100% at the end of 2015, meaning that on average there is one SIM card per person on the planet, according to global analyst firm Ovum.

Ovum’s latest research* illustrates the phenomenal growth seen in the mobile industry in the past decade, with global mobile penetration expanding from just 33% at the end of 2005 to 100% at the end of last year.

Figure 1: Global mobile penetration trend since 2000 and 2015 penetration by region

Source: Ovum

This is not to say that everybody on the planet is mobile-connected. Regional disparities still exist: in Africa and developing Asian markets penetration is still low, at 82% and 79% respectively, meaning that today these regions are 10 years behind Europe and North America. Issues of availability and affordability still need to be addressed by the overall mobile industry. Only at the end of the decade will Africa and developing Asian markets approach the 100% penetration mark, according to Ovum forecasts.

Meanwhile, machines are becoming increasingly connected: in some countries of the developed world one in 10 SIM cards are used to connect machines such as cars, electricity meters, and other objects. On average 4% of the world’s SIM cards are used to connect machines, a ratio that Ovum expects to double to almost 8% in 2020.

As Dario Talmesio, Ovum’s European Practice Leader, observes:  “100% penetration is undoubtedly a significant milestone, but we should be mindful of a few caveats. There are still big regional differences, and of course rural penetration in developing markets continues to lag far behind that in urban areas.  We also need to account for machines, which are taking an increasingly significant share of the overall pie.”