Can You Hear Me Now?*—Five Billion Mobile Phones and Counting


This month may not actually see the 5 billionth mobile phone subscription, but earlier this year a Singapore research firm estimated that that happy threshold would be passed sometime before the advent of 2011. Keep in mind that total world population is just 6.8 billion. The first commercial cell phone network began operation in Japan in 1979 and the Federal Communications Commission finally authorized the operation of the first cell phone system in the U.S. in 1982. Motorola's first phone weighed two pounds and cost $3,995 ($8,800 in today's dollars).

In 2009, the population of the U.S. was around 308 million and there were 285 million cell phones. I have two—I got a second one because I am working in Montana this summer and AT&T threatened to turn my iPhone into brick if I continued my excessive data use. By "brick" I mean the company would lock my phone so that it could only contact AT&T cellular towers. When I asked the company representative where the closest AT&T tower was located, I was told "about 300 miles away." Hmmm. Jailbreaking.

Anyway, it's never been easier to reach out and touch someone*, in fact, almost anyone, anywhere in the world than it is today. That's something to celebrate.

*References to the ad taglines of Verizon and Ma Bell.