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O2 mobile broadband dongle

The number of people worldwide using mobile broadband connections to get online is set to exceed those using fixed line technology within three months time, it has been predicted.

A new study published by the International Telcom Union (ITU) forecasts that by the end of 2009 there will be around 600 million mobile broadband subscribers across the globe. Conversely, fixed line subscribers will number around 500 million.

The report attributes the trend to massive growth in developing countries, especially Africa, South America and India. Another factor deemed to be driving take up is the advent of budget broadband laptops.

Commenting on the developments, Hamadoun Toure, ITU's Secretary-General, stressed the importance of further improvements to broadband infrastructure in the developing world to prepare the countries for the demands of the global digital economy.

He said: “Information and communication technology, or ICT, is vital within developing countries to ensure that ordinary people can fully participate in the knowledge economy of the 21st century.

“We have seen a positive impact on services such as health and education in markets where ICT growth has been strong.”

Despite the survey’s findings showing how quickly mobile broadband is being adopted overseas, the highest-profile development of late in Africa has been the completion of work on a high speed undersea fibre optic cable. This will link nations in the eastern side of the continent with the rest of the world.

However, the Seacom has proved controversial in some quarters with many commentators predicting that it will not significantly impact improve access to fixed line broadband in countries such as Kenya. This is because the service still remains out of the price range of the average inhabitant, according to a report from the BBC.

Jessica McArdle, marketing manager at Top 10 Broadband, said: “As the most cost-effective solution to connectivity problems in the Third World, it’s not surprising that mobile broadband should be driving growth across the sector.

“However, for developed nations’ economies to compete with those in the West, it is vital that a more robust telecommunications infrastructure is prioritised soon."

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