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GSM: the business of a billion people

GSM celebrates as historic milestone is passed ahead of schedule

More than one billion people, almost one in six of the world's population, are now using GSM mobile phones. This historic milestone has been reached only 12 years after the launch of the first networks.

Now adopted by more than 200 countries and territories, GSM has become the only global standard for mobile communications. As the choice of 80 per cent of all new mobile customers, GSM has driven wireless take-up to the extent that mobile phones now outnumber fixed telephone lines globally.

"Throughout its relatively short history, GSM has regularly beaten growth forecasts," said Rob Conway, CEO of the GSM Association and member of its Board.

"As recently as the turn of the year, we thought we would hit the billion landmark sometime in March - but GSM has not lost its capacity to surprise and delight. Operator connections are running faster than anticipated and we actually passed the milestone earlier this month.

"GSM was born out of the revolutionary vision that mobile phones should keep customers connected anytime, anywhere, even when crossing borders. That revolution has gained currency and support faster than even the most optimistic dreams of it founders," he added.

Leading representatives of the GSM community, including the GSM Association, Alcatel, Ericsson, Nokia, Nortel Networks, Motorola, Siemens, 3G Americas and UMTS Forum have joined together to celebrate this historic milestone.

The billion GSM customers will be a central theme at next week's 3GSM World Congress, the annual gathering of the global mobile industry in Cannes, France, and will also be commemorated at events worldwide over the coming months.

Industry support:

"GSM market maturity is rapidly approaching in the more established mobile markets that have already reached significant penetration level. In these regions, the focus is now on introducing richer end-user services. The lion's share of the GSM family market growth is now in the lower-penetration markets, primarily China, but also some other Asian Countries, as well as India, Russia, Africa and South America. In these markets, GSM - and all the service-enabling capabilities it conveys - is the number one choice for all users looking for cost effective and value-added mobile services."
- Etienne Fouques, Alcatel Executive Vice President, President Mobile Communications Group

"Signing one billion users shows beyond question that GSM delivers services that consumers want across the globe. We will continue to develop easy-to-use services and solutions to bring mobile communication to even more people in the future."
- Carl-Henric Svanberg, President and CEO of Ericsson

"This milestone speaks to the power and impact of mobile innovation. From the beginning of the wireless era, Motorola has been at the forefront, partnering with mobile operators and helping fuel phenomenal market growth in GSM. Together, we are transforming the way people live, work, play and relate -- expanding and evolving personal potential through technology. We look forward to the celebration of 2 billion GSM subscribers, which we expect will come in a fraction of the time it took to get to 1 billion."
- Ralph Pini, Chief Technology Officer, Motorola's mobile communications business

"We at Nokia warmly congratulate the GSM community on the remarkable success of GSM. In 12 short years, GSM has launched a tidal wave of mobile communication that now touches one of every six people on the planet. The unprecedented speed of this success has clearly been driven by GSM's openness, sparking worldwide industry collaboration and customer acceptance. The same strengths that took GSM to the first billion -- open global standards, choice, and innovation -- are propelling it towards further growth in mobile multimedia as well as voice, spawning new business models that will bring new uses and new users together."
- Sari Baldauf, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Networks, Member of the Nokia Group Executive Board

"Our children will grow up in a world where nothing and no-one is ever out of reach, where friends and family are always only a phone call away, and where a world of knowledge and entertainment is instantly accessible at anytime of the day or night. Nortel Networks is proud to have delivered networks that enabled a billion people to keep connected, and looks forward to delivering the innovations which will provide the next billion people with ever richer communications."
- Pascal Debon, President, Wireless Networks, Nortel Networks

"GSM has made communications truly personal for a billion people on this planet. It has also provided the foundations for a new generation of mobile multimedia services and devices that will transform our lives over the next few years - just as GSM has already done."
- Jean-Pierre Bienaim, Chairman, UMTS Forum

"Contributing to the achievement of this GSM milestone are the multi-millions of Latin and North Americans embracing the GSM technology. With GSM growing at nearly a 100% rate in the Americas in 2003, the region will continue to power the GSM market beyond the one billion customer mark. The benefits of GSM now reach every country in Latin America, North America, and nearly all the Caribbean. EDGE third generation service is available coast-to-coast in the U.S. and in Brazil, Chile and parts of the Caribbean. Today, GSM is the number one choice of all new customers in the Western Hemisphere."
- Chris Pearson, President of 3G Americas