In 1990 just 12 million people had subscriptions to mobile telephones; there were 2.4 cellular subscriptions per 1000 people. At this time mobile telephones were large, expensive and had limited network coverage.
The United States had the most mobile phone subscriptions, at 5 million; followed by the United Kingdom with 1 million; Japan with 800,000; then Canada and China with 600,000 subscriptions each. 138 territories in the world had less than 1000 mobile subscriptions in each. Much of the Middle East, Southern Asia, and Central Africa are not visible on this map. Many territories had no cellular telephone network.
The number of subscriptions to cellular telephones around the world increased 100 fold between 1990 and 2002. During this period the infrastructure needed to use cellular telephones spread to many parts of the world. This map of subscriptions in 2002 shows many territories which are minute on the 1990 map, such as Bangladesh, Cameroon, El Salvador and Georgia.
Despite this spread of technology, the territories that were largest on the 1990 map remain the largest on the 2002 map. However, worldwide by 2002 there were 188 cellular subscriptions per 1000 people. In Taiwan and Luxembourg there were more subscriptions than residents.