Archive for November, 2011

Broadband in emerging markets

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Today, over half the world’s population now has access to a mobile phone, with 5.37 billion mobile subscriptions and over two billion internet users worldwide by the end of 2010. However, these are more than just bald statistics – today, modern ICTs are genuinely changing people’s lives for the better. As ICTs, and mobile phones in particular, reach the hands of more and more people living in low-income and rural areas, a growing number of people are becoming empowered, able to access information on demand and readily contactable – often for the first time. Today, due to this large subscriber base, mobile communications are argued by many observers to offer the single biggest delivery platform for development – but does size or functionality matter more?

Poverty reduction is the first, and arguably most urgent, Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of the United Nations, but for many people in developing countries, information poverty rapidly becomes actual poverty. Lack of education, illiteracy, lack of nutrition or access to health resources, lack of aspirations – the causes of poverty are complex, persistent and difficult to overcome. Figures vary, but around 10 million people still die every year from hunger, and present trends in rising food prices and the global economic crisis may have pushed tens of millions more back into poverty, with women and girls often the most at risk, according to UN analysis. For may people, better access to information could make a real and significant life-changing difference.

Mobile applications and customized services can deliver concrete benefits promoting healthcare and education to raise awareness and help achieve public health goals. m-Health applications offer huge promise through lower costs and greater coverage to improve the quality of healthcare, as well as shifting the focus in behaviour towards preventative healthcare, rather than curative healthcare. Examples include: the treatment and management of health (e.g. by reminding, registering or transmitting readings for diabetes or blood pressure); better health data to improve decision-making; applications for treatment plans (e.g. in HIV retroviral adherence plans); or applications for awareness-raising and information dissemination throughout the community at large, following community-based approaches towards achieving improved health outcomes as a social construct.

In education, mobiles could put a teacher into the hand of every schoolchild, woman and parent. Educational apps are being devised with local language content to teach literacy, numeracy, geography or safety or hygiene awareness. Children can learn more about prospects and opportunities in certain fields. Even more valuable, they can familiarize themselves with ICTs and learn fresh skills – skills that will stand them in good stead in a field where the shortfall between labour requirements and skilled labour is projected to widen significantly over the next ten years.

More broadly, expanding access to mobiles can open up young and old minds alike to new opportunities, new sources of information and fresh perspectives. They may also create an enabling environment for innovation, experimentation and fresh thinking, even within established societies with traditional perspectives – for example, in agricultural or rural societies, which can experiment with new and innovative development initiatives.

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The upcoming electric vehicle tsunami

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

While many politicians and energy executives are still discussing the pros and cons of electric vehicles (EVs) a quiet revolution is taking place that will most certainly take most of them by surprise.

Many western economies continue to squabble over how to address climate change and clean industry issues, in particular pointing at developing countries such as China and India and arguing that they also have to do their bit in relation to the climate change issues; but the reality is that in their own way these countries are moving forward and will soon outmanoeuvre the western economies.

Looking at China, for example – within a few short years the major cities have been able to get rid of the millions of polluting petrol-operated motor cycles, mopeds and small trucks. These have, in the major cities at least, been replaced by electric vehicles.

Similar to PV (solar panel) production, China is now also leading the world in EVs. While many politicians in other countries are still arguing about the economic viability of this development the Asian economies are simply getting on with the job, and it will be their equipment that will soon start flooding other markets.

Looking a bit further, and at Korea and Japan in particular, car manufacturers have embarked on a massive campaign to start producing EVs. After learning some interesting lessons the action has been moved away from technical issues to marketing ones. They are developing EVs according to the same principle used by Apple and Android when they developed smartphones. Their EVs will need to be must-have cars – if you want to be seen as smart you will have to drive in an EV.

China, Japan and Korea all have clean energy plans in place, with clear direction and timeframes between now and 2050. Based on such long-term national policies, their governments have also developed clear long-term strategies that direct their manufacturers as to where these developments will go. This is backed up by industry development incentives. And these countries all have very clear views on issues such as sustainability, climate change, peak oil, clean energy, etc. They have never viewed the process from a cost perspective – from the start they saw the emerging green economy as a huge opportunity for new jobs and new business opportunities. They believe that the new ‘green economy Googles’ of this world will come from their countries.

The arrival from these countries of PVs, EVs and other green economy products will hit the market like a tsunami. And it is also very likely that current infrastructures will not be able to handle the onslaught. In the area of smart grid developments these same countries – South Korea, Japan and China – are leading the world. They have a clear understanding that without smart infrastructure the green economy is not going to work, and they are all building massive smart grid infrastructures.

Amazingly, while citizens in the western economies are arguably more progressive and aggressive on issues like sustainability, clean energy etc, policy developments there are clearly lagging behind the Asian countries mentioned above.

It is not the people who are failing; it is the western politicians who are failing their citizens. Very few western economies are ready for the green economy, with perhaps the exception of the Scandinavian countries and Germany. Most of the others have been influenced by the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) messages from the vested interests, who would like as far as possible to keep things as they are. They have been able to gain control over the politicians and are using FUD for their own political gain, certainly not for the national interest.

See also:

Toyota Fun-Vii – the smartphone version of the EV

Smart Grids – Transforming the Energy Industry

Smart Grids – Grid IT – Where Energy Meets Comms

Global – The Internet of Things (IoT)

Smart Cities, Buildings and Communities

Smart Transport System Insights

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Toyota Fun-Vii – the smartphone version of the EV

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Toyota revealed a concept vehicle that heralds a not-too-distant future where people, cars and society are linked.

The ultimate in personalisation functions offer the ability to alter the content displayed on the interior and exterior of the Fun-Vii with the same ease as downloading an application.  For instance, the whole vehicle body can be used as a display space, with the body colour and display content changeable at will.  This allows the entire vehicle to function as a terminal for displaying messages or other information.

The whole of the vehicle interior also can function as a display space, with the interior freely adjustable to match the mood of the moment.  Content such as navigation information is blended seamlessly into the interior through the use of augmented reality.  Furthermore, the vehicle’s “navigation concierge” can provide the passengers with driving information and guidance through a vocal interface.

A network update function makes sure the software versions for the vehicle’s drive, control and multimedia system are always up-to-date.

The Fun-Vii is able to link with surrounding vehicles and infrastructure, allowing it to detect other potentially hazardous vehicles—such as vehicles in blind spots—in advance, or to connect with friends who are driving nearby.

Operation of the Fun-Vii is not limited to inside the vehicle itself, with a portion of the vehicle’s functions accessible remotely via a smartphone or other mobile communication device.

See also:

Smart Grids – Transforming the Energy Industry

Smart Grids – Grid IT – Where Energy Meets Comms

Global – The Internet of Things (IoT)

Smart Cities, Buildings and Communities

Smart Transport System Insights

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Social media and the perfect storm

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

For many consumers, in the developed markets of the west in particular, social media is viewed as a trivial distraction. However, recent events such as political uprisings in Egypt and the Middle East and natural disasters such as the catastrophic earthquake in Japan earlier this year, prove that social media channels can be a genuine and powerful force for good.

H.E. Dr Mohamed Salem Minister of Communications mentioned that the former dictator in Egypt had a saying ‘let them say what I want, but I will do what I want’. This caused major frustration among the people. They turned to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter – the regime did not understand social media until it was too late. The regime tried to cut the communications means on the internet and this was the straw that broke the animal’s back.”

Subsequent events in Egypt are well documented, of course, and the number of Facebook users in that country has increased from six to ten million in six months. All of the government ministers are now using Facebook, explained Dr Mohamed.

See also:

Digital Media – Social Enterprise Business Models

Digital Media – Social Networks and Gaming Insights

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Bulgaria’s failed 3G licence tender showing market caution

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Bulgaria’s mobile market is served by three mobile network operators, all of which have deployed GSM and 3G networks. The regulator has steadily introduced measures to improve market competition, including a streamlined mobile number portability procedure and the launch of tenders for spectrum following requests from interested parties. The market is on the cusp of a considerable transformation as the sector migrates from voice to data, but caution among operators may hold back growth during the next few quarters. The updated Bulgaria – Mobile Market Insights, Overview and Statistics report considers recent developments and market dynamics.

Although the mobile sector accounts for about two-thirds of total telecom sector revenue, a combination of competition and regulatory measures, compounded by ongoing economic difficulties which have compromised consumer spend, has resulted in mobile market revenue having fallen for three years in succession (including a 7.7% drop in 2010 and an anticipated 7% drop in 2011).

This has focussed MNOs on their need to promote mobile data services as a source of future revenue. MobilTel has done much to develop the necessary infrastructure to this end, increasing coverage of its DC-HSPA+ network to an additional eight towns in mid-2011, providing data transfer at up to 42Mb/s. About 540 other towns have access to speeds of up to 21Mb/s and a further 520 of up to 14.4Mb/s.

The competitive nature of the mobile market has also led operators expanding into new market segments (generally through the acquisition of ISPs), so enabling them to add mobile voice and data to bundled offers. Future market development also requires the continuing migration of contract customers to prepaid plans (the prepaid sector now accounts for only 38% of all subscribers): high mobile penetration – at some 138% – points to a saturated market which will develop not through further customer growth but through a readjustment of customers’ mobile contracts with MNOs. In addition, MNOs can further exploit and encourage the trend among consumers for substituting fixed-line calls for mobile calls.

The economic realities brought about by declining revenue have led to considerable caution among operators. This has been brought to the fore by the recent abandonment by the regulator of the tender for a fourth 15-year 3G licence in the 2GHz band. The licence was first put to the table in 2008, attracting a single bidder but no result. This time around, no bids were entered. It is indicative that there is for now no room for additional players in an already tight market.

Key developments:

MNOs fined for MNP non-compliance; HSPA+ coverage extended in 2011; mobile sector nearly half of all telecom sector revenue; Vivacom reports 125% growth in mobile broadband subscriber base in H1 2011; MNP takes off under new measure; 2GH spectrum licence cancelled; regulator’s 2010 market report; operator data to September 2011.

Companies covered in this report include:

Vivacom, MobilTel, Globul.

Henry Lancaster,
Senior Analyst, Europe

For more information see the updated reports:
Bulgaria – Digital Economy and Broadband Markets – Insights, Statistics and Forecasts;
Bulgaria – Key Statistics, Telecom Market and Regulatory Overviews;
Bulgaria – Mobile Market Insights, Overview and Statistics.

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