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Executive Summary

Mobile Access

The idea that mobile cellular can dramatically extend access to communications, particularly in developing countries, seems like a contradiction. First, almost four-fifths of mobile cellular subscribers are in developed countries. The four largest emerging economy networks (China, Brazil, Republic of Korea and Turkey) account for another 12 per cent leaving just 9 per cent of mobile cellular subscribers in the more than 100 remaining developing nations. In many developing countries, mobile has only recently been introduced and some still do not have service (see Figure 6). Second, mobile is typically perceived as a service for the wealthy, priced beyond the reach of the average citizen.

But this is changing. Developing countries are now experiencing the highest levels of mobile growth. While the perception that cellular is expensive may have been true in its early years, that has now changed and mobile is entering a new, mass market phase. The "expensive" tag that mobile acquired was partly a result of the technical constraints imposed on analogue systems when spectrum was scarce, competition was limited and handsets expensive. Growth rates have subsequently risen and mobile has become relatively abundant with considerable capacity available now on second-generation digital systems. Over a thousand companies have been licensed around the world to provide mobile service thanks to the widespread introduction of competition. Handset prices have dropped tremendously due to growing market sizes, which permit economies of scale, technological enhancements and, in some cases, cross-subsidization of handset prices. As a result, more residential users are connecting to mobile networks and the amount they pay is falling.

There are a number of reasons why mobile can be a more attractive than fixed-lines for improving access to telecommunications in developing countries:

  • Mobile networks can be installed more rapidly than fixed-line networks;
  • Mobile networks are increasingly available with pre-paid cards so that users are not automatically disqualified from using the service because of a lack of creditworthiness;
There are a number of reasons why mobile can be a more attractive solution than fixed-lines for improving access to telecom-munications in developing countries

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Updated : 2007-08-28