Emerging Markets Drive Mobile Phone Uptake

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Global mobile phone shipments will hit 1.77 billion in 2016, driven largely by growth in emerging markets

Emerging markets will drive growth in the mobile phone market over the next five years, according to new research from independent telecoms analyst Ovum.

In its ‘Mobile Phone Forecast: 2011–16’, Ovum predicts that the mobile handset market will experience steady growth of 2.5 percent, reaching 1.77 billion shipments in 2016 – an increase of more than 230 million from 2011.

“Our latest analysis has shown that after a difficult 2009 due to the recession, the mobile handset market bounced back in 2010, with shipments reaching 1.49 billion units,” said Ovum principal analyst Adam Leach. “This strong performance corrected for the growth that didn’t happen in 2009 and put the market on course for a period of steady growth over the next five years.”

Not just smartphones

The number of mobile phone users continues to increase steadily in emerging markets, while operators switching to 3G and 4G mobile broadband networks will also help to drive growth, Ovum said. Shipments of mobile broadband-enabled handsets will grow by a compound annual growth rate of 15.1 percent, to reach 962 million units in 2016.

“Increasing consumer appetite for smartphones is a major factor in driving the growth in the market for mobile broadband-enabled handsets,” said Leach. “However, smartphones are not the only story and there will still be growth in non-smart broadband phones, particularly in emerging markets.”

For many people in developing countries, mobile broadband is simply the only affordable way to access the Internet. Research released by Ovum yesterday revealed that fixed broadband is still beyond the reach of the vast majority of emerging market consumers.

Charities such as Computer Aid International are doing their bit to try and get developing nations hooked up to the World Wide Web. In October last year, for example, it announced that its solar powered Internet cafe, built in a self-contained shipping container, had gone live in Keyna.

However, many developing nations are looking at wireless (i.e. mobile) alternatives for broadband provision. This includes 4G technologies such as WiMAX, LTE, or older mobile standards such as HSPA.

Broadband a basic civil right

In September last year, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) called on global leaders to make access to high-speed networks a basic civil right and ensure that more than half the world has access to broadband networks by 2015.

The organisation predicted that mobile broadband will be the access technology of choice for millions in the developing world, and therefore urged governments to ensure ample availability of spectrum to support mobile broadband growth.

“In the 21st century, affordable, ubiquitous broadband networks will be as critical to social and economic prosperity as networks like transport, water and power,” said the ITU in a report.

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