Charting The Rise of Mobile Device Subscriptions Worldwide
There were approximately 8.6 billion mobile device subscriptions worldwide as of 2021, more than there are people on the planet.
Yet, while mobile phones, tablets, and other devices have become extremely common across the globe, access still varies greatly from country to country.
Using data from Our World in Data, this chart by Pablo Alvarez tracks the rise of mobile phones across the globe, showing the discrepancies in mobile phone subscriptions in select countries.
The Evolution of the Mobile Market
Before diving into the present-day divide, it’s worth quickly explaining how the overall cell phone market and mobile devices in general have evolved over the last three decades.
Below is a summary of the history of the mobile market since its onset in the early 90s.
The 90s and Early 2000s: The Beginning
The first mobile device hit the market in 1983, with Motorola’s launch of the DynaTAC 8000X . This clunky analog phone cost nearly $4,000 and needed to be recharged after 30 minutes of use.
By the early 1990s, innovation in the industry had somewhat taken off, with various manufacturers like Nokia and Sony starting to launch their own devices.
While this gave consumers more product options to choose from, the technology was still fairly new, and mobile adoption was relatively low compared to today’s figures.
2007 and Onwards: Apple Opens Up the Market
Though many companies introduced mobile phones, and a few launched early tablet devices like the PalmPilot and the Nokia 770, it was Apple’s foray into the market that shook things up.
The iPhone’s launch in 2007, and the iPad’s debut in 2010, ushered in a new era of mobile devices. Their touch-screen design was revolutionary at the time, and they were also exceptionally more functional through the App Store, since users could download hundreds of different mobile applications and games quickly.
This is when the rise of mobile really started to pick up across the globe. In 2007, there were nearly 3.4 billion mobile device subscriptions worldwide or about 50% of the global population.
Present Day: Mobile Devices Are Common, But Not Ubiquitous
In many parts of the world, millions of people rely on their mobile phones and tablets every day for work, social life, or simple day-to-day activities like figuring out directions or deciding what to make for dinner.
Yet, while overall mobile subscriptions have surpassed the global population, adoption hasn’t been equally spread across the globe.
Here’s a look at mobile device subscriptions per 100 people, in 12 different regions:
As the table above shows, some regions have a lot more mobile phone subscriptions than people, while other places are lagging behind.
In regions with a surplus, people likely have multiple devices and SIM-enabled gadgets like smartwatches and connected cars. This explains how in Macao, mobile subscriptions are more than 300% higher than the country’s population.
On the flip side, in South Sudan, there are just 12 mobile phone subscriptions for every 100 people in the country. Poverty is widespread across the country, which helps explain its relatively low number of mobile subscriptions. According to the World Bank, only 7.2% of the South Sudan’s population has access to electricity.
Mapped: The World’s Rocket Launch Sites
From Sputnik 1 to today’s massive satellite constellations, every object in space was launched from just a handful of locations.
The map above, from BryceTech , is a comprehensive look at the world’s spaceports (both orbital and sub-orbital) as well as ballistic missile test sites.
ℹ️ In sub-orbital spaceflight, a spacecraft reaches outer space, but it doesn’t complete an orbital revolution or reach escape velocity. In orbital spaceflight, a spacecraft remains in space for at least one orbit.
The World’s Major Spaceports
Though the graphic above is a detailed list of many types of rocket launch sites, we’ll focus on major sites that are sending satellites and passengers into sub-orbit, orbit, and beyond.
Editor’s note: The above table includes all sites that are operational, as well as under construction, as of publishing date.
The list above covers fixed locations, and does not include SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ships. There are currently three active drone ships—one based near Los Angeles, and the other two based at Port Canaveral, Florida.
Two of the most famous launch sites on the list are the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakhstan) and Cape Canaveral (United States). The former was constructed as the base of operations for the Soviet space program and was the launch point for Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. The latter was NASA’s primary base of operations and the first lunar-landing flight was launched from there in 1969.
The global roster of spaceports has grown immensely since Baikonur and Cape Canaveral were the only game in town. Now numerous countries have the ability to launch satellites, and many more are getting in on the action.
Wenchang Space Launch Site, on the island of Hainan, is China’s newest launch location. The site recorded its first successful launch in 2016.
One interesting quirk of the map above is the lack of spaceports in Europe. Europe’s ambitions for space are actually launched from the Guiana Space Centre in South America. Europe’s Spaceport has been operating in French Guiana since 1968.
Low altitude launch locations near the equator are the most desirable, as far less energy is required to take a spacecraft from surface level to an equatorial, geostationary orbit.
Islands and coastal areas are also common locations for launch sites. Since the open waters aren’t inhabited, there is minimal risk of harm from debris in the event of a launch failure.
As demand for satellites and space exploration grows, the number of launch locations will continue to grow as well.