The strongest trend in emerging markets will be the narrowing gap with ‘developed markets’, particularly in the mobile data market. The widening availability of high speed 3G (HSPA/HSPA+) and (in many regions) 4G, married to affordable smartphones and tablets will drive a mobile internet boom that will be much hotter than the growth we have seen over the last 10 years in developed markets. For many consumers and small businesses, ‘mobile’ internet will be their first and only usable internet access, and carriers in many emerging markets will need to deal with the challenge of balancing demand against available resources, but more urgently and on a larger scale than their ‘developed market’ counterparts. They will also need to face up to ‘digital competition’ very soon, particularly in markets where carriers have hitherto offered high call charges.
A second trend will be tighter revenue management, as markets start to approach saturation in emerging regions. Business focus will move to where revenue is being needlessly lost, through churn and fraud, for example. Loyalty programs will increase in importance (with greater attention being paid to call quality and the customer experience), and systematic programs to combat fraud will start to emerge.
Finally and for similar reasons, we will see price wars and a focus on smarter pricing in regions where communications is still very expensive. Cutting prices is one way to get customers to sign up (or stay), and to use the carrier’s services (rather than digital alternatives) but attractive bundles and offers, and imaginative tariffs, can do the same job more constructively and without such a hit on the bottom line.