mobile phones

By Matthew Reed, Ovum

The number of mobile subscriptions in Africa will reach one billion by the end of 2016, according to figures from research firm Ovum. But even as the continent nears this landmark, its telecoms market is changing fast, and data and digital services rather than mobile voice and SMS will lead the next phase of development.

In the first decade of the 2000s, Africa underwent a mobile revolution as the roll-out of mobile networks across the continent brought communications technology to many for the first time. By the end of the decade, the mobile-money service M-Pesa was showing that mobile services might be able to plug some of the other gaps in Africa’s infrastructure, such as in financial services. Read more

By Jon Fredrik Baksaas, GSMA

There are a myriad of social and economic benefits made possible by bringing communication services to previously unconnected populations. This commitment to “Digital Inclusion” – the ability to extend connectivity to all corners of the globe – is driving internet access and usage, and providing access to vital services such as healthcare, education and commerce.

One barrier to digital inclusion is the availability of networks. To address this mobile operators have invested billions rolling out 3G/4G mobile broadband across the globe. Today mobile broadband networks cover 80 per cent of the world’s population, providing internet access to many markets where fixed access is either prohibitively expensive or non-existent. Read more

How do you like your smartphones and tablets? Light or large? Black or white? For most consumers in emerging markets the question is: cheap or cheaper?

This is the market manufacturers should be focusing on, according to a new report by Gartner, a technology research company, which estimates that no less than 78 per cent of global smartphone sales will come from developing economies by 2018. Read more

On a hot Tuesday afternoon Neha Arora, 32, stands outside an upmarket café in south Mumbai, struggling with two mobile handsets. She complains that her phone calls regularly cut out.

“It’s a way of life, I guess,” the wedding planner says. “You just call back or the other person calls back.” Read more

Nimbuzz, a Netherlands-based but India-focused messaging app, was acquired by New Call Telecom of the UK this week in a deal that valued the company at about $250m.

That is a tiny sum compared with the $22bn Facebook paid this year for WhatsApp, with its 465m users worldwide. Nimbuzz has 200m registered users, mostly in India, the Middle East and north Africa, and its success in the vast Indian market provides important lessons for tech companies in Asia’s third largest economy. Read more

Ratan Tata (pictured), who was the head of India’s powerful Tata group until 2012, ushered in a period of ambitious international expansion at the company. He is one of the most respected figures in the business community today.

On Wednesday, it was announced that the illustrious businessman has personally invested in Snapdeal, the online marketplace that is battling to win a share of India’s fast-growing market for ecommerce. Read more

Increasing numbers among an estimated 2.5bn “unbanked” people in poorer countries are turning to their mobile phones to pay bills, transfer money and receive salaries. And now – a survey has found – the practice is spreading fast beyond its traditional heartland in sub-Saharan Africa to other parts of the emerging world such as Latin America.

The survey conducted by the GSMA, an industry group that claims membership from some 800 mobile operators in 250 countries, found that operators were offering 219 live services in 84 countries at the end of 2013, up from 179 live services in 75 countries a year earlier. A further 113 mobile money services are planned for launch, the GSMA said.

Mobile money services were rolled out in 2013 in nine new markets – Bolivia, Brazil, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guyana, Jamaica, Tajikistan and Togo, the GSMA added, quoting survey results. The survey polled 110 service providers in 56 countries. Read more

We have heard all about India’s political parties turning to social media to campaign. But given limited internet penetration, wouldn’t telephone be a better way to connect with the masses?

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), widely recognised as leading the pack on technology as well as opinion polls, seems to think so. They have launched an interactive phone line that allows people to “speak” to prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, on a handset. Read more

Viom Networks, the Indian telecom infrastructure group, is set for some fundraising once the elections are over and markets settle. The company, majority owned by Tata Teleservices, could become one of the first Indian groups to take advantage of new regulations and do an IPO overseas.

Beyondbrics spoke to chief executive, Syed Safawi, and found out why Viom needs growth capital. The answer lies in some rare optimism around the Indian economy and the beleaguered telecoms sector in particular. Read more

Slowly but surely Mumbai’s billboards are being filled with large, stern faces that gaze down ominously at passersby.

One picture of Rahul Gandhi, undeclared candidate for the incumbent Congress party, is emblazoned with the words: “Mein nahi, hum” (Not me, us). Even away from the streets in the confines of your sitting room, turn on the television and you might chance upon an advert by Tata Tea which encourages women to vote, making a symbol out of the black spot that will mark the forefinger of every voter in just a few weeks. Read more

Last week, beyondbrics wrote about the use of social media in campaigning for this year’s Indian elections. Online networks have become an important route to young and urban voters and a useful source of information on the public debate.

But while politics may only just have caught on, India Inc has been using social media to manage communications for some time. Read more

The poor northern state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) is home to some 200m people, makes up 7 per cent of the country’s land mass and has 80 out of 543 parliamentary seats in India.

That means this largely rural region is crucial as we head towards a general election. Analysts from Citi travelled to UP to gauge the mood. Read more

India’s telecoms industry has been under a big, dark cloud. From aggressive price wars to the infamous scandal around the allocation of spectrum, the sector has suffered multiple setbacks.

So the new round of spectrum auctions that kick off on Monday are of great interest – they could raise some Rs113bn ($1.8bn) for a government scrambling to meet fiscal deficit targets. The big question is: will operators bid generously or is India set for another embarrassing flop? Read more

Being recognised by Bollywood is often the ultimate accolade for anything in India – an issue, a person, a business. But the folks at India’s number one matrimonial website seem admirably unfazed by the imminent launch next year of a Bollywood romcom, ‘Running‘. Read more

That's the easy part

Africa’s mobile revolution has become synonymous with its improving economic performance, but the sector is hitting some serious road bumps along the way.

After five years posting the highest growth rates in the world, the uptake of new mobile subscriptions across the sub-Saharan region is set to slow, by the reckoning of a report from GSMA, an association of mobile operators. Read more

Watching India set its policy on telecoms auctions is like watching a game of tennis – there’s so much back and forth, you get a sore neck.

Although the country is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing telecoms markets, there were few takers at the last auction for 2G spectrum thanks to the high base price the government set. So what’s the latest volley (to prolong the tennis metaphor…)? Read more

Apple and Nokia’s latest quarterly results always throw up something interesting – usually in different directions, as the Finnish phonemaker declines and the US tech giant forges on.

So here’s one nugget from the recent reports: in revenue terms year-on-year, Apple added the equivalent of Nokia’s entire China services and devices business in just one quarter. Read more

Not long ago, the future for Nokia looked merely bleak. In developed markets, Apple and others were outselling the Finnish company with advanced smartphones, leaving Nokia to play catch-up. In emerging markets, Nokia clung on to its market by selling so-called feature phones – simpler, slimmed down smartphones.

Then things got bleaker. With the advent of cheaper handsets running Android, customers in emerging markets began to buy advanced smartphones, too – and not Nokia ones. So, can Microsoft’s €5.4bn purchase of Nokia’s phone business pay off – and how important are emerging markets? Read more

With all the noise around new technology we tend to forget the old.

When India shut its telegram service this week, the response showed that a significant rural population still used the facility. But there’s another medium that still has an unexpectedly large role in India’s communications industry – the radio. Read more

It’s possible that Carlos Slim has never downloaded an application into his mobile phone. He’s not known for his information technology prowess – he doesn’t even have a computer in his office. What he is known for is his business acumen.

His latest venture into music recognition app Shazam for $40m, through his multinational telecommunication company, América Móvil, is a case in point.

 Read more