Global Broadband Growth Slows Sharply -- 4 Billion Still Offline

The State of Broadband 2015
New Report Highlights Challenges of International "Digital Divide"; Ooredoo Pledges to Continue to Try to Close the Gap across its Footprint

DOHA, Qatar -- Broadband Internet is failing to reach those who could benefit most, with Internet access reaching near-saturation in the world's rich nations but not advancing fast enough to benefit the billions of people living in the developing world, according to the 2015 edition of the "State of Broadband" report.

The report reveals that 57% of the world's people remain offline and unable to take advantage of the enormous economic and social benefits the Internet can offer.

Access to information and communication technologies, particularly broadband Internet, has the potential to serve as a major accelerator of development, with the importance of ICT connectivity specifically recognized in the new UN Sustainable Development Goals. With the 17 goals now firmly on the global agenda, governments and private industry both have a strong interest in finding ways to get people online, the report argues.

New figures in the report confirm that 3.2 billion people are now connected to the Internet, up from 2.9 billion last year and equating to 43% of the global population, but while access to the Internet is approaching saturation levels in the developed world, the Net is only accessible to 35% of people in developing countries. The situation in the 48 UN-designated Least Developed Countries is particularly critical, with over 90% of people without any kind of Internet connectivity.

"The UN Sustainable Development Goals remind us that we need to measure global development by the number of those being left behind," said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, who serves as co-Vice Chair of the Commission with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. "The market has done its work connecting the world's wealthier nations, where a strong business case for network roll-out can easily be made. Our important challenge now is to find ways of getting online the four billion people who still lack the benefits of Internet connectivity, and this will be a primary focus of the Broadband Commission going forward."

Dr. Nasser Marafih, Group CEO of Ooredoo, is now a commissioner on the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development. He commented that: "The report highlights the global challenge that sees millions of people unable to access the life-changing benefits of Internet access. We believe that the mobile broadband has the power to improve people's lives, communities and countries, and are convinced that governments, operators and regulators need to work together to address this crucial issue."

Ooredoo's network development approach looks to build on the company's success in its home market of Qatar, which is ranked second on the report's top ten countries for household Internet penetration, with 98% of homes connected. It falls just behind the Republic of Korea, with 98.5% of homes connected, and comes ahead of Saudi Arabia (94%) in third place. Qatar is first among developing countries for the number of people using the Internet (91.5%) and is ranked #12 overall in the world.

According to the ITU there will be a total of almost 3.5 billion mobile broadband subscriptions by end 2015, with industry analysts predicting 6.5 billion mobile broadband (3G/4G/5G) subscriptions by 2019, making mobile broadband the fastest growing ICT service in history. The report also stated that the Asia-Pacific region now accounts for half of all active mobile broadband subscriptions.

The ITU has forecast 25 billion networked devices to be active by 2020, meaning connected devices could outnumber connected people by 6:1.

Produced annually by the Broadband Commission, The State of Broadband is a unique global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by country data measuring broadband access against key advocacy targets set by the Commission in 2011.

The Broadband Commission comprises more than 50 leaders from across a range of government and industry sectors who are committed to actively assisting countries, UN experts and NGO teams to fully leverage the huge potential of ICTs to drive new national SDG strategies in key areas like education, healthcare and environmental management.

The State of Broadband 2015 is the fourth edition of the Commission's broadband connectivity report. Released annually, it is the only report that features country-by-country rankings based on access and affordability for over 160 economies worldwide.

About Ooredoo
Ooredoo is a leading international communications company delivering mobile, fixed, broadband internet and corporate managed services tailored to the needs of consumers and businesses across markets in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia. As a community-focused company, Ooredoo is guided by its vision of enriching people's lives and its belief that it can stimulate human growth by leveraging communications to help people achieve their full potential. Ooredoo has a presence in markets such as Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Algeria, Tunisia, Iraq, Palestine, the Maldives, Myanmar and Indonesia. The company was named "Best Mobile Operator of the Year" at the World Communication Awards 2013.

About ITU
ITU is the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technologies, driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 Member States and a membership of over 700 private sector entities and academic institutions. Established in 1865, ITU celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2015 as the intergovernmental body responsible for coordinating the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoting international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, improving communication infrastructure in the developing world, and establishing the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to cutting-edge wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, oceanographic and satellite-based earth monitoring as well as converging fixed-mobile phone, Internet and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world. www.itu.int

About UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization works to harness the power of knowledge and information, particularly through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), to transform economies, create inclusive knowledge societies, and empower local communities by increasing access to and preservation and sharing of information and knowledge in all of UNESCO's domains. For UNESCO, such knowledge societies must be built on four pillars: freedom of expression; universal access to information and knowledge; respect for cultural and linguistic diversity; and quality education for all. See more at: www.unesco.org.

SOURCE Ooredoo
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