The number of mobile phone subscribers is on track to increase from 4.6 billion to five billion globally by the end of 2010, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
The ITU says the increase is driven by advanced services and handsets in developed countries and growing adoption of mobile health services and mobile banking in the developing world.
"Even during an economic crisis, we have seen no drop in the demand for communications services," says ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Tour, taking part in the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, "and I am confident that we will continue to see a rapid uptake in mobile cellular services in particular in 2010, with many more people using their phones to access the internet."
ITU expects to see the number of mobile broadband subscriptions climb to more than one billion during 2010, having surpassed 600 million by the end of 2009. With current growth rates, mobile Internet access is set to exceed access form desktop computers within the next five years.
"Even the simplest, low-end mobile phone can do so much to improve healthcare in the developing world," adds Dr Tour.
"Good examples include sending reminder messages to patient’s phones when they have a medical appointment, or need a pre-natal check-up. Or using SMS messages to deliver instructions on when and how to take complex medication such as anti-retrovirals or vaccines. It’s such a simple thing to do, and yet it saves millions of dollars – and can help improve and even save the lives of millions of people."