The number of mobile phone users across the world would increase to five billion this year, a UN telecommunication agency said.

The number of mobile phone subscriptions worldwide has reached 4.6 billion and is expected to increase to five billion this year, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

“Even during an economic crisis, we have seen no drop in the demand for communications services,” ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure said.

The ITU said the increasing mobile phone use in rich countries was due to advanced services with the help of new handsets offered by service providers while people in developing countries increasingly use mobile phones for health services and banking facilities, China Daily reported.

Toure cited examples of patients receiving reminder messages on their cell phone ahead of a medical appointment or text messages instructing them how to take complex medication.

“The simplest, low-end mobile phone can do so much to improve health care in the developing world,” Toure said at the Mobile World Congress in Spain.

The number of mobile broadband subscriptions worldwide is expected to exceed one billion this year as compared to 600 million in 2009, the agency said.