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 Tuesday, October 14, 2008

­Mobile penetration rates are forecast to rise from 46% in 2008 to 95% by 2013 according to a new survey of 34 emerging market countries published by Tariff Consultancy. Already subscribers in the 34 countries total over 2.1 billion users (based on operator statistics as of mid-2008) which accounts for half of the world’s mobile users (based on ITU estimates). By 2013 the 34 countries will have grown to 4.3 billion mobile users and will account for around two thirds of global mobile users.

The report notes that although China and India will remain the two single largest markets throughout the period due to their large populations, the fastest growth in new mobile subscribers over the next 5 years is set to come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Cambodia and Indonesia. By 2013 Iraq is forecast to have the highest mobile penetration rate of all of the 34 countries.

Another striking feature is the deployment of 3G and HSDPA mobile networks across all regions which is likely to continue. Although 3G handset costs are currently prohibitively expensive for the mass market there is evidence of adoption by high spending user groups who are using 3G for VoIP and peer-to-peer applications as an alternative to fixed line broadband.

The use of inclusive call minutes is also increasing. Inclusive call minutes are being used as a short term customer acquisition tool, with unlimited on-net SMS or calls offered for a 24 or 48 hour period. They are being used as a retention tool with low on-net calls to particular user communities, and finally as a flat rate price differentiator across all networks where competition is severe.

The availability of new mobile licences and spectrum is continuing to attract investors as Governments seek to raise new revenue with licence auctions and existing providers look for foreign investors. New mobile operator investment is taking place in India, Cambodia, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria and Vietnam among others.

The report also noted that as markets approach maturity, mobile operators are attempting to develop new forms of distribution channel to attract the low income subscriber with lower denomination top-up cards and door to door sales and sub-agents.

“The rapid growth of mobile penetration across the world indicates that these markets will approach maturity more quickly than previously thought,” commented Margrit Sessions, Managing Director of Tariff Consultancy. “By the end of 2013 we are likely to see one SIM card for every person as the norm in most countries,” she added. “However we should be careful to over-emphasise the significance of this trend, as the incidence of multiple SIM ownership - particularly in the cites - has long been common in emerging markets as there is such a large difference between on net and off net tariffs.”

Over time pricing policies pursued by the mobile operator will need to change in order to promote greater mobile operators. Operators who continue to promote multiple SIM ownership with large differences between on-net and off-net tariffs will ironically contribute to relatively low levels of operator loyalty.

Emerging market mobile operators are likely to find that growth will come from inclusive flat rate deals for both voice and data which will drive usage as has been the case in developed markets.

“The imminent launch of mobile broadband data services provides an exciting new revenue stream as users are able to break free of low speed fixed or dial up access which will continue to have relatively poor levels of penetration. Mobile is going to become the standard for accessing the internet in many of these countries from now on,” adds Margrit Sessions.

Source: Cellular News.