GENEVA, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- Mobile broadband over smartphones and tablets has become the fastest growing segment of the global information and communication technology (ICT) market, said a report released Monday by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
ITU's flagship annual report "Measuring the Information Society 2013" showed that mobile broadband connections over 3G and 3G+ networks have been growing at an average annual rate of 40 percent since 2007.
By end of 2013, there will be 6.8 billion total mobile-cellular subscriptions; an estimated 2.7 billion people will be connected to the Internet, though speeds and prices vary widely; and there will be some 2 billion mobile-broadband subscriptions, the report estimated.
It said that almost 50 percent of all people worldwide are now covered by a 3G network.
Analysis of trends in broadband pricing in more than 160 countries and regions showed that in the four years between 2008-2012 fixed-broadband prices fell by 82 percent overall, from 115.1 percent of average monthly income per capita in 2008 to 22.1 percent in 2012.
The biggest drop occurred in developing countries, where fixed-broadband prices fell by 30 percent year on year between 2008 and 2011, according to the report.
Results showed that in developing countries mobile broadband was now more affordable than fixed broadband, but still much less affordable than in developed countries.
At the beginning of 2013, almost 80 percent of households globally had a TV, compared with 41 percent of households with a computer and 37 percent with Internet access, according to the report.
An estimated 1.1 billion households worldwide are still not yet connected to the Internet, 90 percent of which are in the developing world, it said.
The trend is strongly positive, however, with the proportion of households with Internet access in developing countries increasing from 12 percent in 2008 to 28 percent in 2013, said the report.
A new model developed by ITU for this year's report estimated the size of the digital native population worldwide, showing that in 2012 there were around 363 million digital natives globally, or 5.2 percent of the total global population and 30 percent of the global youth population.
The model defines digital natives as networked youth aged 15-24 years with five or more years of online experience.
Out of a total of 145 million young Internet users in the developed countries, 86.3 percent are estimated to be digital natives, compared with less than half of the 503 million young Internet users in the developing world, according to the report.
However, it predicted that within the next five years, the digital native population in the developing countries would more than double.
The report revealed that South Korea led the world in terms of overall ICT development for the third consecutive year, followed closely by Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Finland and Norway.
The Netherlands, Britain, Luxembourg and Hong Kong (China) also ranked in the top 10. China was at the 78th place in the ITU's ICT Development Index (IDI), which ranks 157 countries and regions according to their level of ICT access, use and skills.
ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure said that this year's IDI figures showed much reason for optimism, with governments clearly prioritizing ICTs as a major lever of socio-economic growth, resulting in better access and lower prices.
"Our most pressing challenge is to identify ways to enable those countries which are still struggling to connect their populations to deploy the networks and services that will help lift them out of poverty," he said.