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Sunday, October 24, 2004

Connecting The Unconnected

( Via Jim Downing) The inaugural Asian 3GSM congress event saw the head honchos of quite a few mobile companies discussing emerging trends, policies and strategies for the future . Some Key highlights.THE GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) world celebrated a huge milestone in February as it passed the one billionth subscriber mark. Four months after that amazing milestone, it continued to grow exponentially with an additional 100 million subscribers, bringing the latest audited figure to 1.16 billion. As a telecommunications technology, GSM accounts for 73% of the world’s digital mobile market and 72% of the world’s wireless market. Perhaps the popularity of GSM can be attributed to its tightly-defined standards that guide vendors and equipment manufacturers, mobile operators and handset makers to the path of success.
“International roaming” – the ability to carry one’s phone into another country and use it – is a result of these defined standards. The next billionth subscriber would come from the under-served parts of the world. This covers Africa, South America and Asia. China and India, in particular, will be the focus because of the sheer number of people in those countries. There are 6.5 billion people in the world but only two billion have access to communications. Robert G. Conway, chief executive officer of GSMA, says, in the least penetrated countries, mobile communications accounts for 60% to 90% of connections. “To date, mobile users outnumber fixed-lines in more than 120 countries. This implies that the next billion customers will be dominated by mobile connections”.
Lim Chuan Poh, CEO of SingTel Mobile said, that by 2008, the Asian market alone is expected to be three times the size of Europe’s. The GSMA is in a prime position to play an active part in aiding the vision of bringing basic communications services to the unreached, said Craig Ehrlich, chairman of the GSMA Board. “However, we are making every effort to reach the two billion mark by 2008 or 2009 and in doing so, show that there is so much of the world that has been left on the sidelines.” The cost of the Handset is the inhibitor to further growth in least developed countries and the GSMA board is coming with lighter specifications for low-cost handhelds, to facilitate the drop in prices of GSM handsets.
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