GSM is on target to achieve an historic milestone during the first quarter of 2004. With more than 970 million users at the end of December and an average of 15 million new users a month throughout 2003, the GSM Association, the global trade association representing GSM operators worldwide, confidently expects the billionth GSM user to be connected during the first quarter. The approach of the milestone will be a major theme at the 3GSM World Congress, the annual gathering of the global GSM community, taking place in Cannes, France, between 23 and 26 February 2004.
During 2003, more than 180 million new users joined the global GSM community representing 80% of the 227 million new digital mobile phone users connected worldwide.
Rob Conway, Chief Executive of the GSM Association and Member of its Board said, "By taking 80% of growth in 2003, GSM outperformed the market and reinforced its position as the global standard for mobile communications."
For the second year running, GSM added as many new customers during the year as the second most successful mobile technology (CDMA) had in total at the year-end.
In absolute terms, members of the Association's Asia Pacific regional interest group drove GSM's growth during the year adding more than 70 million new users. China maintained its position as the world's largest mobile market: China's two GSM operators added 42.8 million -- 21% more than the year's global growth for CDMA.
Europe contributed 42 million new users, with strong growth recorded in central and eastern Europe. The GSM Association's Russian members added 16 million users while both India and North America each added more than 10 million new users. Growth in both Africa and the Arab World exceeded 9 million.
The extent to which the migration of Latin American TDMA and CDMA operators to the global GSM standard is gaining momentum is vividly illustrated by the fact that this region recorded growth of more than 130 per cent to finish the year with 16.5 million users. Russia and India both recorded annual growth of around 100%.
"With a user base approaching one billion, solid foundations are in place for the successful migration to 3GSM. As we entered 2004, 25 operators were already delivering 3GSM services to customers in 17 countries. Improvements in the supply of dual-mode handsets capable of delivering seamless inter-operability between GSM and 3GSM will provide the catalyst for the launch of at least another 40 3GSM services in the year ahead," concludes Conway.