The International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) annual report found steady but uneven growth of internet connectivity worldwide.

“Facts and Figures” found that since its commercial launch in 2019, 5G mobile networks have reached nearly 40% of the world’s population. It is not a uniform deployment, however. The ITU found that 89% of high-income countries are covered, but that 5G coverage is practically non-existent in countries with low incomes.

An announcement about the results of the study points out that 3G networks are the most common technology used for internet connectivity in low-income countries. However, the most beneficial use cases of mobility, such as remote medical diagnostics and online learning, are not available on these networks. 4G services are the gateway to 5G, but only reach 39% of the population in low-income countries.

Other findings from the report:

  • About 5.4 billion people — 67% of the world’s population — use the internet.
  • Seventy percent of men use the internet, compared with 65% of women. Although both categories are up compared with 2022,women still outnumber men in the offline category by 17%.
  • Worldwide, 79% of people between the ages of 15 and 24 used the internet this year. This is 14 percentage points more than the rest of the population.
  • Eighty-one percent of urban dwellers around the world used the internet this year. That’s 1.6 times as high as the percentage of internet users in rural areas.
  • Globally in 2023, 78% of people aged 10 and older own a mobile phone. Across every region and every income group in 2023, the percentage of individuals owning a mobile phone is greater than the percentage of internet users.
  • Fixed-broadband subscriptions have grown at an average annual rate of 6.7% in the past decade. There are 148 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in high-income countries compared to 33 per 100 inhabitants in low-income countries.
  • Both data-only mobile broadband and fixed broadband became more affordable in 2023, across all regions and all income groups. However, in low-income economies the median price of an entry-level mobile-broadband subscription is 8.6% of average income, a share 22 times greater than in high-income countries (0.4%).

Last November, the Ericsson Mobility Report reported that there would be 1 billion 5G subscriptions worldwide by the end of 2022 and 5 billion by the end of 2028. Almost 80% of the world’s 300 million fixed wireless access (FWA) subscriptions will be 5G, the report said.

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