3.3 billion mobile accounts: 1 for every 2 earthlings

Somewhere on the planet today someone will skip over pages of fine print they will later regret not reading - and thumb their nose at the risk of a phone exploding - in order to sign a mobile services contract that will bring the worldwide number of such accounts to 3.3 billion, a figure roughly equal to half the Earth's population.

Can't you just see the balloons and confetti falling on some startled AT&T customer in Ottumwa, Iowa?

Announcing this milestone with such remarkable precision are the industry analysts at Informa Telecoms and Media, who in their press release also provide a treasure trove of interesting facts and trivia regarding the mobile-phone revolution:

-- In 1987, only 35 countries hosted mobile-phone networks, a figure that had risen to 192 a decade later and today stands at 224.

-- Ten percent of the world's population remains uncovered by a mobile network, while 40 percent are covered but remain unconnected, including my father, which should surprise no one given that he doesn't even have an ATM card.

-- That 3.3 billion figure does not mean that half the people on the planet are packing cell phones. The reason is that so many individuals have identified a need to have more than one account at a time: 59 countries tally more accounts than people, according to these analysts.

-- On the other hand, 27 counties with networks have subscriber penetrations below 10 percent.

As for the figures only a carrier executive could love - Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) - the numbers are all over the map:

-- On the high end, Kuwaiti operator Zain reports a monthly ARPU of $71, followed by Hutchison Whampoa's UK operations at $70.55 and Q-Tel in Qatar with $69.

-- On the lower side, there is Hutchison's Sri Lankan operator at $2.83 and Bangladesh's CityCell brand at $2.98.

Hey, where can I get me one of those Sri Lankan plans?

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