Analysis on Internet data usage, featured for the first time in ITU's annual connectivity report, shows that fixed-broadband services accounted for over 80% of global Internet traffic in 2022.
The volume of Internet traffic across fixed-broadband networks, which remain common in office and home settings, far exceeds that of mobile-broadband networks. But the dominance of the fixed networks underscores the global connectivity disparity between high and low-income countries.
“The further and faster technology advances, the more urgent our mission to connect everyone becomes," said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, ITU Secretary-General. “Fulfilling the promise of universal and meaningful connectivity is one of the most important causes of our time in our effort to realize the sustainable future we want and need."
ITU estimated that one-third of the global population remains offline in 2023.
Internet Traffic Highlights Digital Disparities
In low-income countries, the ITU analysis reveals not only that fewer people are online, but that those who are connected use less data – meaning they are not achieving the full potential of connectivity or realizing the benefits of digital transformation.
Globally, the monthly average for data use was 257 GB per fixed-broadband subscription, compared to 11 GB per mobile-broadband subscription in 2022. Monthly fixed-broadband traffic in low-income countries averaged 161 GB compared to only 1 GB for mobile.
Global Mobile Network Coverage
ITU Facts and Figures 2023 shows that 5G mobile network coverage has expanded to reach almost 40% of the world population since commercial deployment began in 2019.
As with Internet data traffic, the distribution is uneven. While 89% of people in high-income countries are covered by 5G networks, the service is nearly absent in low-income countries.
For many low-income countries, 3G is often the only way to connect to the Internet. However, 3G is not sufficient to access the full benefits of digital technology, such as remote medical diagnostics and online learning. 4G service remains a pathway to meaningful connectivity, but only reaches 39% of the population in low-income countries.
Other Important Findings
Internet use increases globally and in every region – 5.4 billion people, equivalent to 67% of the world's population, use the Internet. In Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the Americas, about 90% of the population uses the Internet. Approximately two-thirds of the population in the Arab States and in Asia and the Pacific uses the Internet– in line with the global average. However, just 37% of the population uses the Internet in Africa today.
The gender digital divide persists – Globally, 70% of men are using the Internet, compared with 65% of women—both slight increases from 2022 figures—but women account for a disproportionate share of the global offline population, outnumbering male non-users by 17%.
Internet usage among young people grows – In all regions, young people are more connected than the rest of the population. Worldwide, 79% of people aged between 15 and 24 use the Internet in 2023– 14% more than the rest of the population.
The urban-rural divide remains – Worldwide, this year, 81% of urban dwellers are using the Internet, which is 1.6 times as high as the percentage of Internet users in rural areas.
Mobile phone ownership is higher than Internet use – Globally, 78% of people aged 10 and over own a mobile phone in 2023. On average, in every region and every income group, the percentage of individuals owning a mobile phone is greater than the percentage of Internet users.
Subscriptions continue expanding globally – Fixed-broadband subscriptions have grown at an average annual rate of 6.7% in the past decade. Income disparities for active mobile-broadband subscriptions are wide: with 148 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in high-income countries compared to just 33 per 100 inhabitants in low-income countries.
Broadband affordability continues to improve – In 2023, both data-only mobile broadband and fixed broadband have become more affordable in all regions and for all income groups. However, cost continues to be a major barrier to connectivity and a key factor driver in the global digital divide. In low-income economies, the median price of an entry-level mobile-broadband subscription amounts to 8.6% of average income: a share 22 times larger than in high-income countries (0.4%).