Huge demand for new mobile phones during the holiday season last year propelled shipments to over one billion for 2006, according to market researcher IDC.
Handset vendors shipped a record high 294.9 million mobile phones worldwide in the last three months of 2006, propelling the full year total to 1.02 billion, according to IDC.
The fourth quarter figure was 20 percent higher than the same time in 2005, while the full year figure beat the 832.8 million wireless handsets sold in 2005.
Developing nations boosted sales last year, ISC said. Nations in emerging market areas of Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America accounted for a higher portion of mobile phone purchases than mature areas such as Western Europe, North America and Japan.
Developing nations will continue to widen their lead over modern countries, IDC said. Many people in developing areas still don't have handsets and it takes less time and money to build than a landline network, making mobile phones a better choice for less affluent countries, IDC said. Mobile phones are also seen as status symbols in many emerging markets.
China, for example, finished 2006 with 461.1 million mobile phone subscribers, adding 67.7 million new users during the year, according to its Ministry of Information Industry. India is also growing fast, increasing subscriber numbers by nearly 74 million new wireless users to end with a total of 149.5 million last year. Despite the big numbers, there is plenty of room to grow. China's population is estimated at 1.4 billion people now, and India's was nearly 1.11 billion at the end of last year.