The number of mobile phone subscribers will touch a staggering 5 billion worldwide this year from 2.2 billion in 2006, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

“The information and communications technology landscape has changed in extraordinary and unexpected ways since March 2006 when the last edition of the World Telecommunications Development Conference (WTDC) was held in Doha,” ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Toure said at the inauguration of the fifth edition of the WTDC here today.

The meet is being held for the first time in the country at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre.

The drastic decline in fixed-line users by 36 million since 2006 has been compensated for by the growth of mobile subscribers during the period, Mr. Toure said.

“The best news is that almost all of this growth has been in the developing world where mobile users grew 270 per cent in four years since the beginning of 2006. Of the 2.5 billion new mobile subscribers added during the period globally, 2 billion were from the developing countries,” Mr. Toure said.

Likewise, of the 777 million new Internet users worldwide, 600 million are from the developing world, Mr. Toure noted.

“We have also seen social media skyrocket. When we met last time in Doha, no one had ever sent a Tweet and Facebook was a small closed site for students. Today, 50 million Tweets are sent every day and Facebook has 400 million users,” the ITU secretary—general said.

He, however, noted that their job is not finished yet.

While about two—thirds people in the developed world now have access to the Internet, four—fifths of those in developing world don’t.

ITU’s Telecom Development Bureau director Sami al Basheer said the number of mobile broadband users now stood at 670 million compared to just 71 million four years ago. Similarly, fixed broadband users also doubled from 212 million to 527 million during the period.

Mr. Toure added that by extending access to broadband, countries would quickly accelerate their progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

“Broadband can help us achieve universal primary education, improve maternal health and thereby reduce child mortality, ensure environmental sustainability and manage and mitigate climate change. To help world leaders see the ways that broadband can accelerate the achievement of MDGs, ITU and Unesco launched the Broadband Commission for Digital Development on May 10,” Mr. Toure said.

The commission would submit its recommendations for broadband development at the MDG Summit in September, he added.

More In: Business | Industry