Prices may be falling for mobile and broadband access across the globe, but if you want fast Internet access, it still pays to be rich.
The costs for information and communication technology are continuing to drop, says a report released Tuesday by the United Nations agency known as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). However, broadband Internet access is still pricey and out of reach to many poor countries.
Prices on broadband services fell on average around 42 percent across 161 countries last year, according to the ITU report summary (PDF). The report ranked countries on the use and cost of phone and Internet services. Overall, the price of mobile cellular access declined 25 percent, while landline phone service prices dropped around 20 percent.
"The report confirms that despite the recent economic downturn, the use of [these] services has continued to grow worldwide," Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, director of ITU's telecommunication development bureau, said in a statement. He added that "mobile cellular technology continues to be a key driver of growth."
The agency expects the number of mobile cellular subscriptions to top 5 billion this year.
Despite expansion and lower prices, the agency said, services such as broadband are still too expensive and unaffordable relative to the personal incomes in many countries.
The ITU found that 10 countries that pay the least for broadband--less than 1 percent of gross national income--have high income levels, such as Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, the U.K., and the U.S. But nations with low incomes, including many in Africa, pay as much as 167 percent of their gross national income.
Services such as broadband access are important because they have been found to benefit countries both economically and socially, the ITU said. The organization's own analysis has revealed a link between higher educational performance and greater access to the Internet. The ITU has also found more women in the workforce and more equality between men and women in households with Internet access.