Once before, the Ambanis (Reliance) disrupted the Indian telecom market, and in the process changed the dynamics of markets across the developing world. This was the “fixed mobility” stunt they pulled off around 2000, when CDMA phones were sold as being usable only within defined areas. But they were actually mobile phones and the company made it possible for the phones to be used across multiple areas. On unintended (or perhaps intended) consequence was to drive down the costs of CDMA network equipment and handsets dramatically. CDMA, which did make sense for Sri Lanka in 1999, made eminent sense in 2003.
The headline said that Bharti Airtel has now reached the exalted status of having the third largest number of mobile customers worldwide, after China Mobile and Vodafone Group. But as the writer concludes, the real challenge is going to be how new business models can be implemented to make Internet access as successful as voice access. As Reliance Jio gets set to roll out a data-first network, only the networks that successfully implement a new business model that are likely to survive and prosper. He said the next phase of the company’s growth would be led by mobile internet. “This will again be a transformational phase and we have the opportunity to work with disruptive models and technologies and add value to the lives of our customers in an even more meaningful way,” he said.
A fascinating interview with the Chinese financier Zhang Lei by the Financial Times highlights the need to learn about and keep up with China’s ICT industry. Now Zhang is taking the Chinese template offshore. “The Chinese model, which is mobile-driven, is more suited to emerging markets than the US model, which is desktop driven,” he says. “The socio-economic profile is more similar. We can help companies like Tencent go abroad and accelerate the growth of the mobile internet elsewhere and others also can leapfrog.
We have wondered aloud about how Facebook will make money, especially from the majority of its users who are outside the US and who access it over mobile platforms. Apparently it made USD 150 million last quarter, the first in which broke out the numbers. The earnings report was the first time the company had broken out from its overall advertising revenue how much money it collects from mobile ads. The information helped to address a critical question that investors have had about how Facebook will respond to the world’s shift to mobile computing; 60 percent of all Facebook users log in from their phones. Although it is not a direct comparison, Google is poised to make far more money from mobile devices.
Several of our Latin American colleagues have written about an increasing and dynamic digital divide. With all respect, much of what they write is wishful thinking. They have some kind of ideal picture of broadband and keep talking about it without mapping out the path from where we are to there. The reason I saw this book is because they had cited what I had written, based on synthesizing the research from the Mobile More than Voice work we did in 2008-10. But our work is cited, not engaged with.
Usually politicians like low prices. But the Kenyan President dislikes them so much that he could not wait for the Task Force established by the Prime Minister to examine a decision by the “independent” regulator to lower mobile termination rates, an esoteric wholesale price determined by technical methods. I have not looked at the Kenyan legislation in detail, but I’d be surprised if the legislation permits review by a Prime Minister’s Task Force, let alone the President acting after a meeting with a few of the stakeholders behind closed doors. With its “independence” in tatters, the regulatory agency did the one thing it can do to recover: it ratified the President’s unlawful act. A mass resignation would have been the more appropriate response, methinks.
The shoe is yet to drop in terms of South-Asia-like retail prices, but Bharti is beginning to move out its famed outsourcing model to Africa. The story emphasizes IBM, but one has to be understanding of the US-centric NYT. I.B.M.