How often people switch phone numbers by continent and how many phone numbers are owned on average by continent?

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How often people switch phone numbers by continent and how many phone numbers are owned on average by continent?

On average, ownership (in billions) of phone numbers are Asia 3.56, Africa 0.93, Europe 0.77, Latin America 0.56, North America 0.37, and Oceania 0.03. Phone number switching (in billions) occurs in Asia 0.82, Africa 0.21, Europe 0.18, Latin America 0.13, North America 0.09, and Oceania 0.01. The number of people who switch phone numbers was triangulated for each continent. In general, information about phone number amounts and switching are limited. Please see the attached spreadsheet.

There is minimal pre-compiled data about switching and the ownership of phone numbers. Mobile phones and cell phones are considered interchangeable for the purposes of this research.

The World Bank provides data about cell phones per 100 people. Statista provides mobile phone user data. These findings were combined to obtain averages for six continents: North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. The result is a range for the number of phones per continent that is based upon users and the amount of phones per region. An average was taken from this range.
The research examines multiple phone numbers. It shows that only a small percentage of people have multiple phone numbers and/or phones with the same number. This subject is discussed at the end of the findings. It further justifies the usefulness of the compiled range as continental averages for phone numbers. Prepaid phones that do not transfer ownership to a user were not extensively examined.
The number of people who switch phone numbers was triangulated from the compiled data and a survey by PhoneArena. The survey provided the rate at which people switch their numbers. This rate is applied to the average for cell phone users and the number of phones for each continent. The result is a measurable switch rate for each continent
Most of the world transitioned to cell phones, but not necessarily smartphones. In just 20 years, the number of cell phone subscriptions (6.8 million) has nearly matched the number of people on earth. One reason is that fixed line phones were never made available to many people around the world. For instance, in Africa, for every 100 people, there are about 1.4 fixed lines. In comparison, 63.5 out of every 100 Africans have mobile phones subscriptions.
The disparity in these numbers support the use of cell phone data alone to estimate the number of people who switch and own phone numbers. Using only cell (mobile) phone data also enables the research to remain consistent.
Phone number statistics on the Internet are limited. However, the number of users and phones per one-hundred people are readily available. Both are discussed in separate sections prior to formulating a phone number average for each continent.


Statista estimates the total number of mobile phone users to be 4.8 billion in 2017.
Mobile phone users for each continent are compiled in billions for Asia (and the Pacific) 2.71, Africa (and the Middle East) 0.70, Europe 0.65 (342 million in the west and 308 for eastern and central Europe), Latin America 0.42, North America 0.30, and Oceania 0.03 (Australia 19.4 million and New Zealand 5.8 million (2016)). Please see column “E” of the attached spreadsheet.
In comparison, Worldometers estimates global population at about 7.6 billion people on planet earth. The distribution is compiled by Statista for each continent. In billions of people this amounts to Asia 4.49, Africa 1.25, Europe 0.75, Latin America (and the Caribbean) 0.64, North America 0.36, and Oceania 0.04. Note (though of minimal significance) that Statista used a total of 7.3 billion people from the middle of 2017 for these numbers. Please see column “B” of the attached spreadsheet.


According to The World Bank, there are 102 cell phones for every 100 people on earth. North America has the highest rate of 123 cell phones for 100 persons on the continent. The Euro area follows slightly lower at 119. There is a significant drop off in Latin America (and the Caribbean) at 109. Asia’s (and Pacific) massive population has between 85 to 110. The midpoint for Asia is 98. This region includes South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific. Oceania’s small population registers 80 to 110. The midpoint for Oceania is 95. This area comprises the Pacific island small states and Australia. Africa has the greatest disparity per 100 people between 74 to 111. The midpoint between this range is 93. This area includes the Middle East, North Africa, and the sub-Sahara. Please see column “C” of the attached spreadsheet.
The number of PHONES per continent can be estimated by multiplying the above rate from column "C" by the population in Column "B" and then dividing by 100. The results in column "D", 'Phones per Continent' (in billions), are Asia 4.41, Africa 1.16, Europe 0.89, Latin America 0.70, North America 0.44, and Oceania 0.04. Please see column “D” of the attached spreadsheet.
The estimated (range) of phone NUMBERS is based on 'Mobile Phone Users' (column “E”) and 'Phones per Continent' (Column “D”). For each content, the ranges in billions are Asia 2.71 to 4.41, Africa 0.70 to 1.16, Europe 0.65 to 0.89, Latin America 0.42 to 0.70, North America 0.30 to 0.44, and Oceania 0.30 to 0.38. The average (in billions) for these ranges are Asia 3.56, Africa 0.93, Europe 0.77, Latin America 0.56, North America 0.37, and Oceania 0.03.


Switching rates were obtained from a poll by The website is dedicated to cell phones and was founded in 2001. It reports on current, world news pertaining to cell phones. Monthly visits exceed 25 million.
PhoneArena conducted a vote of 1,876 respondents. 23% changed their phone number more than once per year. 32% of voters said they changed their phone numbers each year. 45% change their phone number every 2 years or longer.
Data from a Gallup poll returned more than half of users are keeping their phones beyond two years. The Gallup poll supports using the PhoneArena data since it also measured more than half of cell phone users. Combined they indicate that phone number switching does not entirely rely upon new phone purchases; since new numbers outpace new phones.
The data in column “G” of the attached spreadsheet conservatively uses 23% to estimate phone number switching by continent (in billions): Asia 0.82, Africa 0.21, Europe 0.18, Latin America 0.13, North America 0.09, and Oceania 0.01. These numbers are obtained by multiplying the ‘Average' from column “F” by 1.23% to obtain column "G".
Having more than one number per phone is a recent and uncommon phenomenon. Companies like Flyp and Burner have surfaced over the last couple of years. They provide streamlined solutions for multiple phone numbers on the same device.

Phone numbers per user may increase in the future. At the moment though, the impact is not very significant to continental averages because user and phone statistics are tabulated in the billions while downloads of these apps are barely in the millions.
AT&T only recently provided a method for its customers to have the same phone number for multiple devices. Since this technology is new and not yet common, it also does not impact continental averages.
Smartphone sales are on the rise globally. About half of the world is expected to have smart phone access by 2022. At this point, smart phone data would be more useful than cell phone data.

Switching phone numbers is not the norm, but over billions of users is significant. Continental averages for these switches and the amount of phone numbers is an uncommon area of research. Over the past couple of years, this space has garnered attention. First, small companies developed personal apps, and at least one large corporation is looking into scalable applications. This space has responded well to investments and expects to grow in the near future.

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