Mobile cellular subscriptions - North America

Definition: Mobile cellular telephone subscriptions are subscriptions to a public mobile telephone service that provide access to the PSTN using cellular technology. The indicator includes (and is split into) the number of postpaid subscriptions, and the number of active prepaid accounts (i.e. that have been used during the last three months). The indicator applies to all mobile cellular subscriptions that offer voice communications. It excludes subscriptions via data cards or USB modems, subscriptions to public mobile data services, private trunked mobile radio, telepoint, radio paging and telemetry services.

Description: The map below shows how Mobile cellular subscriptions varies by country in North America. The shade of the country corresponds to the magnitude of the indicator. The darker the shade, the higher the value. The country with the highest value in the region is United States, with a value of 355,500,000.00. The country with the lowest value in the region is Greenland, with a value of 60,800.00.

Source: International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication/ICT Development Report and database.

See also: Country ranking, Time series comparison

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Development Relevance: The quality of an economy's infrastructure, including power and communications, is an important element in investment decisions for both domestic and foreign investors. Government effort alone is not enough to meet the need for investments in modern infrastructure; public-private partnerships, especially those involving local providers and financiers, are critical for lowering costs and delivering value for money. In telecommunications, competition in the marketplace, along with sound regulation, is lowering costs, improving quality, and easing access to services around the globe. Access to telecommunication services rose on an unprecedented scale over the past two decades. This growth was driven primarily by wireless technologies and liberalization of telecommunications markets, which have enabled faster and less costly network rollout. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimates that there were about 6 billion mobile subscriptions globally in the early 2010s. No technology has ever spread faster around the world. Mobile communications have a particularly important impact in rural areas. The mobility, ease of use, flexible deployment, and relatively low and declining rollout costs of wireless technologies enable them to reach rural populations with low levels of income and literacy. The next billion mobile subscribers will consist mainly of the rural poor. Access is the key to delivering telecommunications services to people. If the service is not affordable to most people, goals of universal usage will not be met. Mobile cellular telephone subscriptions are subscriptions to a public mobile telephone service using cellular technology, which provide access to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) using cellular technology. It includes postpaid and prepaid subscriptions and includes analogue and digital cellular systems. Over the past decade new financing and technology, along with privatization and market liberalization, have spurred dramatic growth in telecommunications in many countries. With the rapid development of mobile telephony and the global expansion of the Internet, information and communication technologies are increasingly recognized as essential tools of development, contributing to global integration and enhancing public sector effectiveness, efficiency, and transparency.

Limitations and Exceptions: Operators have traditionally been the main source of telecommunications data, so information on subscriptions has been widely available for most countries. This gives a general idea of access, but a more precise measure is the penetration rate - the share of households with access to telecommunications. During the past few years more information on information and communication technology use has become available from household and business surveys. Also important are data on actual use of telecommunications services. Ideally, statistics on telecommunications (and other information and communications technologies) should be compiled for all three measures: subscriptions, access, and use. The quality of data varies among reporting countries as a result of differences in regulations covering data provision and availability. Discrepancies between global and national figures may arise when countries use a different definition than the one used by ITU. For example, some countries do not include the number of ISDN channels when calculating the number of fixed telephone lines. Discrepancies may also arise in cases where the end of a fiscal year differs from that used by ITU, which is the end of December of every year. A number of countries have fiscal years that end in March or June of every year. Data are usually not adjusted but discrepancies in the definition, reference year or the break in comparability in between years are noted in a data note. For this reason, data are not always strictly comparable. Missing values are estimated by ITU. Mobile subscriptions include both analogue and digital cellular systems (IMT-2000 (Third Generation, 3G) and 4G subscriptions, but excludes mobile broadband subscriptions via data cards or USB modems. Subscriptions to public mobile data services, private trunked mobile radio, telepoint or radio paging, and telemetry services are also excluded, but all mobile cellular subscriptions that offer voice communications are included. Both postpaid and prepaid subscriptions are included.

Statistical Concept and Methodology: Refers to the subscriptions to a public mobile telephone service and provides access to Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) using cellular technology, including number of pre-paid SIM cards active during the past three months. This includes both analogue and digital cellular systems (IMT-2000 (Third Generation, 3G) and 4G subscriptions, but excludes mobile broadband subscriptions via data cards or USB modems. Subscriptions to public mobile data services, private trunked mobile radio, telepoint or radio paging, and telemetry services should also be excluded. This should include all mobile cellular subscriptions that offer voice communications. Data on mobile cellular subscribers are derived using administrative data that countries (usually the regulatory telecommunication authority or the Ministry in charge of telecommunications) regularly, and at least annually, collect from telecommunications operators. Data for this indicator are readily available for approximately 90 percent of countries, either through ITU's World Telecommunication Indicators questionnaires or from official information available on the Ministry or Regulator's website. For the rest, information can be aggregated through operators' data (mainly through annual reports) and complemented by market research reports.

Aggregation method: Sum

Periodicity: Annual

General Comments: Please cite the International Telecommunication Union for third-party use of these data.