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8.15 Mobile-cellular subscriptions per 100 inhabitants

Modified on 2012/11/30 07:19 by ITU Categorized as Goal 8


Goal 8. Develop a global partnership for development
Target 8.F: In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications


This indicator is defined as the number of mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions per 100 population.

Mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions refer to the number of subscriptions to a public mobile-telephone service that provide access to the PSTN using cellular technology. The indicator includes the number of postpaid subscriptions and the number of active prepaid accounts (i.e. that have been used during the last three months). The indicator applies to all mobile-cellular subscriptions that offer voice communications. It excludes subscriptions via data cards or USB modems, subscriptions to public mobile data services, private trunked mobile radio, telepoint, radio paging and telemetry services.

Method of computation
This indicator is calculated as the number of mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions divided by the population and multiplied by 100.


This indicator is widely available and especially important for developing countries where fixed-telephone infrastructure is often limited. Mobile-cellular telephony is increasingly replacing fixed-telephony in many countries. Mobile-cellular telephony has been highlighted as a success factor and technology for connecting people that were previously unconnected, especially in rural and remote areas, where fixed-telephone infrastructure is limited. It is therefore a key indicator for measuring telephone access and uptake.


Data for mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions are available from administrative records collected regularly, and at least annually, from telecommunications operators by national regulatory authorities or the Ministry in charge of Telecommunications and Communication Technologies (ICT).

When countries collect data on the number of mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions, it is important to distinguish between active and non-active subscriptions. Non-active subscriptions (accounts) should be deleted from subscription lists after a certain period of ‘inactivity’ (usually three months). This is particularly important in countries with many prepaid subscriptions.


Data on mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions are not collected by urban/rural area. Data should be disaggregated by post-paid and pre-paid accounts. Some household surveys include questions about access to and use of ICT. Responses to such surveys can be used to analyse differences by sex, as well as by other socio-economic variables, in access to and uses of mobile-cellular telephone.


Data on mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions are considered to be reliable, timely, and complete.

Mobile-cellular telephone penetration in many countries has surpassed 100 per cent. This can be due to a number of factors such as inactive pre-paid accounts (which should not be included but sometimes are) and multiple SIM cards. Statistics on this indicator should distinguish clearly between post-paid subscriptions and pre-paid accounts and only take into considerations subscriptions that have been used within a certain time period (usually three months).


Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are essential tools for the advancement of gender equality and for promoting women’s empowerment. They can provide women and girls an education and job training, promote literacy, improve access to health care, enable the exercise of legal rights and participation in government. Accelerating broadband and ICT provision to women and girls can contribute to gender equality, empowerment and social and economic development of both men and women.


Data for global and regional monitoring of this indicator are produced by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Data on mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions are collected through annual questionnaires that ITU sends to government telecommunication agencies, usually the regulatory authority, or the Ministry in charge of telecommunication/ICT. When countries do not reply to the questionnaire, ITU carries out research and collects missing values from government web sites, as well as from Annual Reports by operators. Data are complemented by market research reports.

The data, which are mainly based on administrative records, are verified to ensure consistency with data from previous years. However there are comparability issues for mobile subscriptions owing to the prevalence of prepaid subscriptions. These issues arise from determining when a prepaid subscription is considered no longer active. Missing values are estimated by ITU.

Discrepancies between global and national figures may arise when countries use different definitions than the ones used by ITU and especially when national data for active and non-active subscriptions are not clearly distinguished. Discrepancies may also arise in cases where the end of a fiscal year differs from that used by ITU, which is the end of December for most countries. A number of countries have fiscal years that end in March June or September.

Regional and global aggregates of the number of mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions are calculated as unweighted sums of the country values. Regional and global penetration rates (per 100 population) are averages of the country values weighted by the population of the countries and regions.




INTERNATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATION UNION (2011). Handbook for the Collection of Administrative Data on Telecommunication/ICT. Geneva. Available from http://www.itu.int/pub/D-IND-ITC_IND_HBK-2011.

INTERNATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATION UNION (annual). World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Database. Geneva. Available from www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/publications/world/world.html.

INTERNATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATION UNION (2009). Manual for measuring ICT access and use by households and individuals. Geneva. Available from www.itu.int/publ/D-IND-ITCMEAS-2009/en

INTERNATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATION UNION (Website). ICT Eye. Geneva. Available from www.itu.int/ITU-D/icteye/

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