Two billion mobiles ring round the world

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The Independent Online

Nearly two billion mobile phones will be in use by the end of this year. Several countries, notably Sweden and Finland, will have more active mobile accounts than people. Even the UK will have more active phones than people older than 10.

Nearly two billion mobile phones will be in use by the end of this year. Several countries, notably Sweden and Finland, will have more active mobile accounts than people. Even the UK will have more active phones than people older than 10.

These are the astonishing conclusions of a study published by the Deloitte accountancy. The research found that growth in China - where more than a million new subscriptions are taken out every week - Russia and across Asia are powering the sector.

Although new services such as video texting and data transfer are growing, voice still accounts for more than 80 per cent of mobile revenues - a market worth $1 trillion (£530bn) a year.

However, other areas are becoming more important. Tony Cooper, a partner in Deloitte's technology, media and telecommunications unit, said that the market for ringtones is expected to be worth $3.5bn this year.

Mr Cooper added that 3G services were still taking time to catch on, largely because of the lack of availability of handsets that can use them, while the popularity of new innovations such as camera phones did not mean that these services were taking off.

"Only about 10 to 15 per cent of people with camera phones actually use them to send pictures," he said.

The other big growth is in RFID tags, put on consumer goods and components, which emit a signal so that they can be traced.

Deloitte expects billions of RFID tags to be commissioned this year as large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Tesco start to use them. RFID tags are controversial because civil liberties groups say they are used to spy on customers.

A separate study, from the Mobile Data Association, found that text messaging is still growing strongly in the UK.

The research found that in December a record 2.4 billion text messages were sent in the UK, averaging 78 million a day - an increase of 26 per cent on the same period in 2003.

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