The world will soon have over four billion paid-for telecommunications links in service, two-thirds of them mobile, according to analysts from financial firm Deloitte.
The number is even more surprising when you consider just how much of the human race - as many as 50 percent, some argue - has never even made a phone call.
The figures in the Deloitte report TMT Trends: Predictions 2006 include wired voice and data connections, but of course much of the growth is driven by mobile telephony, with many of us having two or more lines each.
Also growing fast are broadband connections, set to hit 300 million in 2006, and VoIP, which Deloitte reckons will more than double its subscriber numbers by year end to 40 million.
The report's author, Deloitte analyst Paul Lee, acknowledged that there is an element of double-counting in the totals - for example, a VoIP user could count as three, for VoIP, their ADSL connection and the phone line the latter runs over - but said this was deliberate because they're charged for as separate services.
"We wanted to show that when new telecoms solutions come along, they're often complementary rather than competitive," he added.
He warned too that service providers and others focus far too much on technologies and speeds than on value. For example, he said they need to talk about 'better and cheaper telephony' rather than VoIP.
"VoIP means nothing to 90 percent of the people who'll be using it," he said. "The terminology is holding it back. By 2010, most enterprises will have put in VoIP simply because its the cheapest, most functional method available - the real opportunity for VoIP is to do things that the PSTN can't."
The same blinkered approach is holding back 3G, he said, with faster networks costing a lot to build, yet delivering relatively little extra revenue for the operator.
"Some applications generate lots of revenue per MB, such as SMS, while others generate very little, for example video," he explained. "The industry needs to focus on what the value is to the user and on generating revenue per person, not revenue per service."
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