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Study: Worldwide mobile subscriptions top 6 billion

Cell phone users
Ryan Mcvay / Getty Images

A recent study on mobile and Internet consumption around the world has some surprising numbers, not least of which is that there are almost as many cellphone subscriptions as there are people in the world.

The report, by the International Telecommunication Union, surveyed mobile and broadband use across the globe, and as expected, mobile usage continues to grow like crazy. The group counted more than 6 billion mobile subscribers at the end of 2011.

Keep in mind that these are mobile subscriptions, not mobile phones or people with subscriptions. Many people have multiple subscriptions for a number of reasons, and businesses often have plans allotted to their employees. Even so, one subscription for every person in the world is a serious milestone.

The ITU also ranked countries based on mobile and broadband adoption and availability — interestingly, the U.S. isn't even in the top 10. South Korea is No. 1, followed by the cold, north end of Europe: Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland.

Big countries like the U.S., India, and China account for a lot of mobile subscriptions (India and China each contribute a billion to the total), but their large size and enormous populations prevent broadband from reaching rural areas and areas where there is urban sprawl. It's much easier to wire a small country like Iceland.

The full report will set you back 84 Swiss Francs, or about $90, but you can read a bit more at the press release describing its main features.

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is