The number of worldwide cellular phone connections is on track to hit 3 billion by the end of next year, according to a forecast by the GSM Association and market analyst Ovum.There are presently 2.5 billion cellular connections, up from 1.5 billion at the start of 2004, said Wireless Intelligence, a venture between Ovum and the GSM Association. That number is increasing at a rate of 40 million new connections every month, it said, adding that this is the fastest rate of growth yet seen by the cellular industry.The number of cellular connections does not represent the number of cellular users, since many subscribers have more than one cellular connection, Wireless Intelligence said. In addition, these figures include prepaid accounts that may no longer be active. It did not offer an estimate for the number of inactive connections.Over the past year, there have been 484 million new cellular connections created. Much of this growth is happening in Asia, which accounted for 41 percent of new cellular connections, Wireless Intelligence said. China alone accounts for about 5 million new connections every month, it said, adding that India is quickly catching up.Eastern Europe and Latin America together accounted for 30 percent of new connections, while Africa was home to 10 percent of new connections, Wireless Intelligence said. North America, Western Europe and the Middle East accounted for 20 percent of new connections, it said.-Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service (Singapore Bureau)Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.