According to GigaOM, by the end of this month, there will be 5 billion mobile phone subscribers on this planet. The rapid rate of adoption of mobile phones is extraordinary when compared to how long it took for the widespread adoption of communications technologies such as the telegraph and landline telephone.

This news can help to serve as a benchmark for our region, where we lag considerably behind the global average.

Will the adoption of mobile data services be faster than the adoption of  mobile voice? This is a pertinent question for those of us trying to decipher future trends. The author is right in saying moving voice packets to 4G data networks will help make this a reality. Some statistics on investment in mobile data that gives a peek to what is just over the horizon:

Data traffic on wireless networks surpassed voice communication in December 2009, so the next frontier is global Internet connectivity, which helps explain where the future growth is for telecom spending. iSuppli predicts $80.2 billion in wireless communications semiconductor spending by 2014, but carriers will surpass that investment In-Stat expects carriers to invest $117 billion on mobile data backhaul alone in the same time period.

Not very long from now, you won’t buy voice minutes, you’ll simply purchase a bucket of data which will support voice communications. We see shades of this already becoming reality in the case of industrialized economies, but the future for developing areas is not as certain:

Berners-Lee sadly pointed out that although the majority of the population has cellular access, only 20 percent of all people on Earth use the web because it’s too expensive compared to voice.

For the Pacific Islands, this is definitely the case where adoption rates for mobile phone usage remains low and where available users can ill-afford basic calling and texting services. Unfortunately, the incumbent telecoms in our region have little interest in offering cheaper and more innovative services where voice is concerned. Widespread usage and adoption of mobile data in the Pacific Islands will remain a dream for some time.

Without some major breakthrough, the region will fall further and further behind trends that are sweeping across the globe.