StatShot: Now Calling, 4 Billion GSM Connections


[qi:gigaom_icon_mobile] Wow…talk about a transformative and disruptive technology that has changed the way we live on a global scale. According to trade group 3G Americas, there will soon be 4 billion GSM mobile connections around the planet. We are a stone’s throw away from that milestone. Even in the Americas region, where CDMA has a big presence, there are 561 million GSM connections. There were 377 million 3G subscribers that used the UMTS-HSPA technologies as of the end of the second quarter. GSM has economies of scale working for it; that’s why it’s gaining traction in fast-growing teleconomies such as Brazil, India, Russia and Africa. As of the end of June, there were 4.3 billion mobile users around the planet. Some interesting charts courtesy of 3G Americas are below the fold, so be sure to check them out.




Disclaimer. I work in voice security.

However what the trade group mentioned in the article fails to mention is that GSM encryption is a joke. It was designed to give a level of privacy but never to be too good – the current algorithm can be broken with a laptop and a fancy antenna that will cost you say $400. See today’s DE Financial Times


This report has a lot of marketing speak. HSPA is an improvement on WCDMA. The GSM alliance doesn’t want to use any CDMA in their public documents but the underlying technology is mostly based on WCDMA standards.

So another way of looking at it, is GSM-HSPA growth=WCDMA growth=CDMA Growth. The technologies have merged a lot because of cross licensing and patents. Just making GSM Vs CDMA comparisons is not accurate in todays world. It was 10 years back.

Om Malik

I am not sure how you can say it is marketing speak: there are numbers about GSM-HSPA based phones. And they are gigantic. And it is a major milestone for a technology generically described as GSM. That’s the only point of this post. If you want to turn this into a CDMA vs GSM story go right ahead – as you said: that was 10 years back.


The technologies have merged you say? Try to get an unlocked phone with WCDMA to work in the states. Then come back and tell us how merged the technologies are.

This is a marketing ploy though, I do agree with you there.

Habib Ullah Khan

I spend a lot of time in the Service Provider ecosystem in my country where total GSM subscribers are close to 100M.

GSM subscriber is measured based on SIM issued. That means if anyone ever took a SIM out, lost it, was given it, etc. they are a subscriber. Note that Asia where 1.9B of these subscribers reside (And where I am) is overwhelmingly a pre-paid country where there are a lot more SIMS then users.

The real measure to use is “active subscriber” whose SIMS are activated and who use them atleast once or more monthly even if it is minimal revenue. By some estimates in my country active subscribers are half of total subscribers.

So slash these numbers by 50% and you have a real global GSM base. Which by the way is still impressive.

Dilip C. Andrade

true, but CDMA numbers are also inflated in a similar (though probably less drastic fashion) because when someone loses a phone, it’s a new device.

I agree that the true figure should be based on active subscribers, but with pre-paid accounts there’s a lot of dispute over what active means. Many carriers want to keep the number as high as possible to show growth.

Comments are closed.