Friday, March 17, 2006

Dean Bubley: Mobile phone penetration ceiling

Dean Bubley posts at the Disruptive Wireless blog his thoughts on comments yesterday by the CEO at Texas Instruments, who predicted 4 billion mobile phone subscribers within 5 years.

Bubley thinks these numbers are overly optimistic and goes through the math:

There are 6.6bn people on the planet. About 1.7bn are less than 15 years old. Let's say 5bn adults (yes, some children will have phones, but some adults are too probably old/infirm which should balance this out). But something like 1.6-2.0bn people have no access to electricity - although these are probably disproportionately young, so there is probably a maximum of 4bn adults with the ability to charge up a cellphone. Assuming they can pay for one (maybe 3bn live on <$3 per day), or live within areas with cellular coverage, that is.
Given these calculations, Bubley opines:
100% penetration of the theoretical target market? I don't think so. Maybe we'll get to 4bn cellular subscriptions, or devices owned (which, let's face it, is what TI is interested in from the point of view of selling chips), perhaps growing to 1.5 per person in the developed world. But cellular users? No way.