Cell phone use hits 6 billion, UN says

Oct 11, 2012 | News

About 86 per cent of the world population has at least one cell phone according to The World Bank. PHOTO BY MATTHEW SMITH

By Matthew Smith

The United Nations telecom agency issued a report Thursday saying that there were 6 billion cell phone subscriptions around the world by the end of 2011.

The International Telecommunication Union website states that there is continuous double-digit growth in developing countries where mobile-broadband growth is at 78 per cent. There is twice as many mobile subscriptions as fixed-broadband subscriptions worldwide.

Jerry Chomyn, program head of media studies at the University of Guelph Humber, questions the findings.

“It doesn’t seem logical to me that that much of the population has cell phone licenses,” he said.

Chomyn said he knows many people who don’t have cell phones and doesn’t know how the UN telecom agency arrived at the figure of 6 billion subscriptions.

“I know people in North America that choose not to have one because they have no need for it, they’re intimidated by the technology and some can’t afford it,” said Chomyn.  “Some people just choose not to be bugged by people anyplace anytime.”

According to Statistics Canada, 78 per cent of Canadian households claimed they owned a cell phone in 2010.

Also, more households are abandoning their landline in favour of wireless phones. In 2010, 13 per cent of households reported they used a cell phone exclusively, up form eight per cent in 2008.

Cost of phones could well be a factor.

“I recognize that cell phones are cheaper and more available in many developing countries because the infrastructure is not there for landlines and cellphones are a good option,” said Chomyn. “But you’re telling me that someone that lives in a third world country, every member of the family has a cell phone? I don’t think so.”

The International Telecommunication Union website states that China has 1 billion cell phone subscriptions and India is expected to hit that mark soon.

With the ongoing global recession, Chomyn said people like to be connected but that doesn’t make us more connected than before.

“I think that most people connect with a small group and they communicate with them,” said Chomyn. “Facebook and social media has allowed us to expand that a little bit but they still stick with people that are interested in the same things they are. The same thing with the cell phone since we don’t go around calling strangers usually since we have a small group of friends.”