It is a cliché that necessity is the mother of invention.
It’s a cliché because, of course, it’s true, and it is in the emerging markets that we’ve seen the most impactful and unexpected use of mobile communications.
Being able to watch Breaking Bad on my phone on a London bus is enjoyable and whiles away an otherwise boring commute, but it hasn’t changed my life in the way that mobile money transfers and ecommerce have revolutionised mercantile and social life in less developed countries. These technologies have empowered the micro-to-small enterprises to an extent that was unpredicted even ten years ago, and the next generation of convergent communications will fuel this growth in ways that are equally hard to forecast.
The next generation of telecom networks (4G/LTE and beyond) are providing a convergence of previously disparate protocols (voice & data). The maturity of the technology and widespread adoption of this equipment drives cost reductions for the network infrastructure and combined with the adoption of standardised interfaces between the network transport layer and the software that performs the business functions allows companies seeking to rollout service coverage in low ARPU regions to more easily build a business case for doing so.
Furthermore, the adoption of the inter-networking standards commonly used by the latest equipment has resulted in increased flexibility as proprietary ‘intelligent networks’ can be replaced with more open alternatives. Standalone 3GPP charging platforms that work with any network element and can charge for any type of service (not just telco) further increase the range of services that can be delivered over these new ‘telco’ networks.
With the advent of high speed mobile broadband, there is a vast reduction in the required infrastructure investment, and when combined with the falling cost of smartphones it is removing both of the traditional barriers to entry. This opens the door to more new entrants, thus increasing competition which in turn will drive down the price for end users. The result is a larger user base which will attract more investment from many more industry verticals, creating a virtuous circle.
New markets need to be ‘opened up’ and the building of the digital super-highways does exactly that. And these highways are two-way streets – not only do they allow the traffic in and the exposure of the end user to the wider world, they of course allow those users out too. They expose the wider world to the hundreds of millions of people who can then contribute and offer their services, ideas and manpower to a larger audience. It doesn’t just bring them online; it puts them on the world stage.
The ever increasing number of 4G/LTE network rollouts in the emerging markets will provide the bedrock upon which individual enterprise can build. Besides being able to contribute to the 2 billion views of Gangnam Style, users can build improved access to medical services, wider choice of business services, more frequent and regular interactions with personal contacts from whom they are geographically separated, and maybe most importantly increased exposure to the lives and views of others in the world.
Richard Doughty is a Senior Consultant at Cerillion Technologies.