Fixed telephone subscriptions

Definition: Fixed telephone subscriptions refers to the sum of active number of analogue fixed telephone lines, voice-over-IP (VoIP) subscriptions, fixed wireless local loop (WLL) subscriptions, ISDN voice-channel equivalents and fixed public payphones.

Description: The map below shows how Fixed telephone subscriptions varies by country. 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 world is China, with a value of 181,908,000.00. The country with the lowest value in the world is Dem. Rep. Congo, with a value of 0.00.

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. Fixed telephone lines are those that connect a subscriber's terminal equipment to the public switched telephone network and that have a port on a telephone exchange. This term is synonymous with the term main station or Direct Exchange Line (DEL) that is commonly used in telecommunication documents. Integrated services digital network channels and fixed wireless subscribers are included. A fixed line also refers to a phone which uses a solid medium telephone line such as a metal wire or fiber optic cable for transmission as distinguished from a mobile cellular line which uses radio waves for transmission. 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.

Statistical Concept and Methodology: A fixed telephone line (previously called main telephone line in operation) is an active line connecting the subscriber's terminal equipment to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and which has a dedicated port in the telephone exchange equipment. This term is synonymous with the terms main station or Direct Exchange Line (DEL) that are commonly used in telecommunication documents. It may not be the same as an access line or a subscriber. This should include the active number of analog fixed telephone lines, ISDN channels, fixed wireless, public payphones and VoIP subscriptions. Active lines are those that have registered an activity in the past three months. Data on fixed telephone lines 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 are considered to be very reliable, timely, and complete. 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. For additional/latest information on sources and country notes, please also refer to:

Aggregation method: Sum

Periodicity: Annual

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