By next year there will be more mobile phones across the world than people, according to a new report from the International Telecoms Union (ITU).
The UN agency predicts that the number of mobile phone subscriptions is to exceed seven billion early on in 2013, soon surpassing the world's 7.1 billion population. At present there are 6.8 million subscriptions.
Former Soviet Union countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States have the highest rates of mobile phone subscriptions at 1.7 for each person. Meanwhile, in Africa, there are only 63 subscriptions for every 100 individuals.
"Every day we are moving closer to having almost as many mobile cellular subscriptions as people on earth," said Brahima Sanou, director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau.
He added that growing mobile penetration is helping developing counties deliver effective IT applications for use in areas such as education, health, environment and business.
The study also revealed that 40 per cent of the world's population is online, although just 16 per cent of Africa has access to the internet, showing how the continent is languishing behind.