With internet connection reaching new heights, ITU looks to the IoT

A new ITU report sheds light on data about how the world's communications networks have connected people, and the future potential for things.

ITU report total connected population Internet of Things IoT
Credit: Thinkstock

The number of connected people on the planet has reached 3.2 billion, according to a report from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU.) Managers, marketers, engineers, and designers who are building mobile and internet products for international consumption should read the full report. The many charts and graphics make the 252-page report on fixed and mobile internet and telephone services around the world an easy read.

itu chart 1 ITU

Mobile cellular subscriptions reached almost 7.1 billion, driven by mobile networks that now cover 95% of the world’s population. Data in the report shows that the price of mobile-cellular services continues to fall around the world, while the cost of fixed-line services has stagnated since 2013, and has even risen in some developed markets.

The ITU, a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) responsible for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) issues, tracks 168 of the world’s economies using the ICT Development Index (IDI).

The report is broken down regionally and economically, including IDI Index rankings by country. Regionally, the report covers Europe, CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), Arab States, the Americas, Asia and Pacific, and Africa. The countries are economically categorized as developed, developing, and Least Developed Countries (LDC). Individual countries are indexed using the IDI, which ranks access to the internet, usage of the internet, and ICT skills. The U.S. is ranked 15th overall, moving up one spot in the last five years. The IDI ranking for all economic categories improved over the last five years, as depicted in the chart below.

itu chart 2 ITU

At the time of release, 46% of the worldwide population has access to the internet, which includes widely disparate usage in the developed and developing world; more than 80% of households in developed countries have access to the internet, compared to less than 7% of LDC households, according to the report. The report predicts continued growth of 3G and 4G mobile data services in underserved areas, compared to modest advances in fixed internet communications services confined mainly to the developed world.

gsma chart 3 GSMA

The goals for the next five years, according to the report, are to foster the growth of ICT technology, bridge the digital divide, and establish partnerships. Reducing the amount of carbon produced is also integral to the goals.

Quantitatively, the ITU has set goals of extending internet access to 55% of households, enabling usage of the internet to 60% of individuals, and providing affordable telecommunication/ICT services to 40% by 2020. Greenhouse gas contributions, meanwhile, should be reduced by 30% by that time, the report says.

The ITU began reporting on telecommunications progress before the internet emerged. Likewise, it has turned its attention to analyzing the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT). The report involved studies on the potential of creating new IoT applications by marrying telecommunication infrastructure with IoT devices and sensors, with a carrier-grade perspective on the opportunity to utilize big data generated by these billions of interconnected devices and humans to improve public and private sector efficiency.

The report appeals to many motivations. Read from business, political, or social perspectives, it grounds you with objective data and estimates of technological progress around the world. It is a reference for telecommunications providers, regulators, and especially for the companies supplying products and apps to the providers and consumers around the world.

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