Global Cooperation

Charted: There are more mobile phones than people in the world

Over 5.4 billion people worldwide have at least one mobile phone subscription.

Over 5.4 billion people worldwide have at least one mobile phone subscription. Image: Pexels/fauxels

Felix Richter
Data Journalist, Statista
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Technological Transformation

  • This month marks 50 years since the very first mobile phone call.
  • Motorola engineer Martin Cooper rang his chief rival from a street in New York on 3 April, 1973.
  • Now there are more mobile subscriptions than people on the planet, reports Statista.
  • There were more than 8.58 billion mobile subscriptions in use worldwide in 2022, compared to a global population of 7.95 billion.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of a momentous phone call. On April 3, 1973, Motorola engineer Martin Cooper was standing in a street of New York when he made the first ever call on a true mobile phone, calling his chief rival at Bell Labs, Joel Engel, presumably to gloat. The call, made on a prototype of what later became the Motorola DynaTAC, was brief, as Cooper later recalled. "I said 'Joel, this is Marty. I'm calling you from a cellphone, a real, handheld, portable cellphone.' There was a silence at the other end. I suspect he was grinding his teeth."

Cooper's call was a pivotal moment in the history of mobile communication, as it marked the beginning of a new era. Today, mobile phones are ubiquitous, with over 5.4 billion people worldwide having at least one mobile subscription, according to GSMA. In fact, there are now more mobile subscriptions than people on the planet, as the former overtook the latter in 2016. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), there were more than 8.58 billion mobile subscriptions in use worldwide in 2022, compared to a global population of 7.95 billion halfway through the year.

Graphic showing global mobile phone subscriptions 1990-2022
2016 was the year mobile phones subscriptions overtook population figures. Image: Statista.
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