The Internet Society’s mission is the Internet for everyone. Today there are more than 3 billion people online, and mobile access to the Internet will be instrumental in bringing the next billion people online.

Mobile phone service, which is now available to more than 90% of the global population, represented a significant leap-frog in countries where there was no fixed service before, and it was adopted at a breathtaking rate. Upgrading networks to offer mobile Internet is an incremental step that is being adopted even faster than mobile telephony before it.

Accessing the mobile Internet is not just a matter of unplugging our laptops, however – we use smartphones and tablets with a range of features and sensors not available or needed in a traditional computer. These enable us to take and share videos; learn a trade and improve our livelihoods; help with our fitness and personal safety; and contribute to countless other activities. These new features are accessed through apps, not browsers, which is evolving how people use the Internet.

I am pleased to launch this second annual Global Internet Report, which continues to provide integrated analysis and reporting, with a focus this year on the mobile Internet. The report explores mobile Internet availability, affordability, and relevance to potential users, and highlights opportunities as well as challenges to ensure all users can enjoy the full benefits of mobile access to the open Internet.

I commend our Chief Economist, Michael Kende, for his vision and expertise in developing this report, and thank all the contributors who shared their time and insights.

We hope that this Global Internet Report series continues to contribute to the progress of Internet development.

Kathy Brown
President and CEO

Executive Summary


We focus this year’s report on the mobile Internet for two reasons. First, as with mobile telephony, the mobile Internet does not just liberate us from the constraints of a wired connection, but it offers hundreds of millions around the world their only, or primary, means of accessing the Internet. Second, the mobile Internet does not just extend the reach of the Internet as used on fixed connections, but it offers new functionality in combination with new portable smart devices.

The benefits of the mobile Internet should not come at the expense of the founding principles of the Internet that led to its success. The nature of the Internet should remain collaborative and inclusive, regardless of changing means of access. In particular, the mobile Internet should remain open, to enable the permission-less innovation that has driven the continuous growth and evolution of the Internet to date, including the emergence of the mobile Internet itself.

Mobile voice technology was introduced in the 1980s and quickly upended traditional telephony around the world. Two major milestones of the last decade have multiplied the impact of mobile technology and shaped the mobile Internet of today.

The introduction of Internet access to traditional 2G mobile voice technologies in mid-2000, and then moving through 3G and now 4G technologies that are faster and have greater data capacity.

The introduction of smart devices starting with the iPhone in 2007, a new type of portable computer with a number of advanced features such as location-awareness, which are accessible through apps distributed through online stores.

For the purposes of this report, we define the mobile Internet as fully mobile access to the Internet using smart devices.

This mix provides significant benefits to users, many of which are readily apparent, others of which we can still only imagine. We highlight two benefits here.

First, it is clear that the mobile Internet will play a key role in bringing the next billion users online. Mobile Internet has already leap-frogged fixed access in many countries because of limitations in the coverage of the fixed network, and the availability of mobile Internet access significantly outpaces adoption today. The mobile Internet is therefore central to realising the Internet Society vision that ‘The Internet is for everyone’.

Further benefits of the mobile Internet are arising from new innovative services based on mobile access to the Internet, using all the features embedded into the smart devices, and accessed through apps. These services enable social inclusion, interaction with government, and commerce, among other applications.
These innovations are already driving a further evolution of the Internet that has been in a state of constant change since its founding.

Trends and Growth

we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. don't let yourself be lulled into inaction. Bill Gates

Nowhere can this quote be more true than with respect to the rise of the mobile Internet. Ten years ago, fixed broadband had just surpassed dial up as the main form of Internet access; one billion users accessed the Internet, the majority from developed countries; and it would be another two years before the iPhone was launched and four years before the first 4G network was deployed.

Today, the changes that have taken place would have been hard to fathom ten years ago. We highlight a few key statistics and trends:

• 3 billion Internet users were likely by May 2015.

• Mobile Internet penetration is forecast to reach 71% by 2019.

• Usage per device is forecast to more than triple by 2019.

• 192 countries have active 3G mobile networks, which cover almost 50% of the global population.

• Smartphone sales are the majority of mobile handsets sold worldwide;tablet sales will soon exceed total PC sales.

• While there are at least five mobile platforms, Android has an 84% share of smartphones, and 72% of tablets.

• There are well over 1 million apps available, which have been downloaded more than 100 billion times.

• Time spent using apps exceeds time spent on mobile browsers, and in the US, at least, exceeds time spent on desktop and mobile browsers combined.

Benefits of the Mobile Internet

These apps, taking advantage of the advanced features of smart devices and the full mobility of users, have provided benefits in every part of our lives:

• Entrepreneurs have created billion dollar opportunities developing and selling apps worldwide.

• Users’ livelihoods can be enhanced as farmers, fishers, and others use apps to increase their output and earnings.

• Opportunities abound for general education, and to help learn a trade through the mobile Internet.

• Users with disabilities can rely on mobile services to communicate, work, and shop, among other activities.

• Governments are increasingly using the mobile Internet to communicate with their citizens and make information available.

• A variety of mobile healthcare applications are emerging for users to track their own fitness or enable remote diagnostics.

• Smart devices can be used to send automatic alerts when the user’s personal security is in danger.

• As with many new electronic devices, the mobile Internet is used for entertainment, including watching video and playing games.

• The sensors in smart devices, including not just location, but also barometers, accelerometers, and others, enable them to be a part of the emerging Internet of Things.

• Governments are beginning to use mobile networks to create smart cities that deliver infrastructure and communications more efficiently.

Challenges of the Mobile Internet

The benefits of the mobile Internet bring their own challenges, however.

For instance, many of us rely on our phones to help us navigate an unfamiliar city, suggest restaurants in the area, summon a taxi, or find constellations in the night sky. However, many of us also are surprised when confronted with the resulting data on our location and movements that is stored and shared among a variety of companies involved in providing location-based services. The same is true for other types of personal, and possibility sensitive data available through our smart devices.

The privacy concerns are heightened by security risks, as we put valuable personal data on our smart devices where they may be accessed by others. The installation of apps brings risks similar to installing any software on any computer, although app stores are able to screen for malware to protect customers. On the other hand, the app economy may limit our choices of platforms, where today the leading platform commands a market share of 84% of all smartphones sold and new platforms have difficulty building up a base of customers and apps.

Nonetheless, there is no question that the number of users, and the amount of their usage, will continue to grow, and the spectrum needed to increase the growth in users and usage must be made available at the national and international level. Further, to help the next billion get online, many of whose entry point will be the mobile Internet, services must be available, affordable, and locally relevant.

These challenges are summarized in the table below


Smart devices enable services such as location awareness and include features such as cameras; the flip side of the coin is increased privacy issues

Usage of the mobile Internet depends on a number of wireless interfaces and access to apps; these lead to heightened security issues

Apps provide convenient access to the advanced features of the phone such as the GPS or camera; but app stores create costs for developers and customers and may limit competition


More users are doing more with the mobile Internet; is there enough spectrum available?

Mobile Internet is the way the next billion are going to get online; will this close the digital divide?


Each of the challenges identified can be overcome, through the actions of all stakeholders working in combination, as follows.


Privacy: It is important to ensure that users have the ability to provide privacy permissions in a way that is simple to understand and implement.

Security: We should implement a Collaborative Security approach to mobile security, with all players in the ecosystem playing a role in this effort.

App challenges: We encourage multi-stakeholder support for the Open Web Platform, as a way to increase platform choices for users that is consistent with our OpenStand principles.


Spectrum: Policymakers must ensure that sufficient spectrum is available to meet new demand and ensure that congestion does not throttle demand.

Digital Divide: Policymakers should ensure that the mobile Internet is available throughout their countries; affordable without undue costs; and relevant to users based on language and content.


As we look forward on the challenges that must be met to increase the benefits of the mobile Internet for all, we should be mindful of both parts of Bill Gates’ quote above; not just that we would have underestimated the change that took place in the past ten years, but that we may overestimate the change that can take place in the next two.

As a result, as we collectively celebrate the changes that have taken place over the past ten years, we should also work hard, together, to make sure that the challenges we have identified are met in order that existing and new users enjoy a mobile Internet that is private and secure, with easy choice between platforms new and old, and that it is available, affordable, and relevant to all users everywhere.

Author’s Notes and Acknowledgements

It is a great pleasure to introduce the second annual Global Internet Report covering the mobile Internet. This report is similar in many ways to the first one, containing key data and trends, highlighting challenges, and making recommendations. In order to make it more accessible, it is now available as an online version, and we are very pleased to be able to launch it directly to our members during our first InterCommunity global meeting.

The mobile Internet is of interest partly because it represents an evolution in the Internet. Where Internet access is largely independent of our PC, our operating system, and our browser, we associate the mobile Internet with our smartphone or tablet; in turn, we associate our smart device with a specific platform, consisting of an operating system and app store; and we largely associate our usage with the apps that we have chosen.

One consequence of this is that the mobile Internet has introduced the concept of a new upgrade cycle to the Internet. We now anticipate, or may be surprised by, new features that are added to the phone or operating system that enable apps to do new things, and it is not unheard of for long queues to form outside stores to be among the first to have a new phone. We can thus put our finger on the day that selfies became possible, with the introduction of forward-facing cameras, or new payment systems were enabled with the introduction of near-field communications, leading to whole new uses of the mobile Internet.

The mobile Internet is also characterized by leap-frogging. Where mobile phones surpassed fixed telephony in developing countries at a rate much faster than most anticipated, the mobile Internet, building on the existing mobile infrastructure, is growing even faster. This, alone, is worth celebrating – but ultimately, it is the services enabled by the mobile Internet, helping farmers grow their crops, entrepreneurs find a market, and people with disabilities gain accessibility, that truly mark the impact of the mobile Internet, particularly in regions where there were few offline alternatives.

This report examines the evolution of the mobile Internet and the impact on development as two parts of the mobile Internet story. In the online version, the evolution and the development parts can be navigated separately, to make the report yet more accessible. Online it can also be easily shared, and we invite you to do so to help spread the word.

Finally, the report covers a wide span of issues – some, such as security and development, are long-standing Internet Society issues, while others, such as spectrum issues, are specific to the mobile Internet. With respect to the former, we only focus on the new issues raised in the mobile context, in keeping with our focus on the mobile Internet.

The list of contributors to the report is long and distinguished.

At the Internet Society, I would like to thank Bob Hinden, Kathy Brown, and Sally Wentworth for their leadership and input; and the Global Internet Report working group for their input throughout the process, consisting of Dawit Bekele, Jane Coffin, Mat Ford, Raquel Gatto, Lia Kiessling, Olaf Kolkman, Konstantinos Komaitis, Karen Mulberry, Steve Olshansky, Vyria Paselk, Andrei Robachevsky, Karen Rose, Christine Runnegar, Nicolas Seidler, Rajnesh Singh, Robin Wilton, Dan York, and Fernando Zarur. I would also like to thank my colleagues Nicole Armstrong, Howard Baggott, Wende Cover, Joyce Dogniez, Lincoln McNey, Graham Minton, Ted Mooney, Jairus Pryor, Henri Wohlfarth and James Wood for their input and help in preparing the report and launch.

I would also like to thank the Internet Society Chapter Leaders who provided insights and advice on their regional calls, notably Gunela Astbrink on accessibility issues, along with members of the Internet Society Joint Policy Action Team of the Advisory Council.

Valuable inputs came from the broader Internet community, including Patrik Fältström (Netnod), Russ Housley (Vigil Security, LLC), Richard Barnes (Mozilla), Mark Nottingham (Akamai Technologies), Christoph Steck, Gonzalo Lopez-Barajas Huder, and Miguel Schneider (Telefónica), Jeff Jaffe, Daniel Dardailler, Wendy Seltzer, and Dominique Hazaël-Massieux (World Wide Web Consortium), Colin McElwee (Worldreader), and Gour Lentell (biNu).

Finally, thanks to Mark Colville, Alex Reichl, David Abecassis and Valérie Gualde of Analysys Mason for their research and analysis, and also Internet Society interns Daniela Pokorna and Victoria Situ. Special thanks to Phillippa Biggs of the ITU for her peer review of the entire report. Finally, thanks to Blossom Communications for their beautiful design and development of the printed and online versions of the report. The Internet Society would like to thank TeliaSonera for their sponsorship of the work of Blossom Communications.

Michael Kende
Chief Economist






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