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Next billion mobile users to come from developing rural areas

India's Telecom Commission has endorsed plans to allow 100 per cent FDI in mobile operators

Operators can expect to see the next billion mobile connections to come from rural areas in emerging markets, according to analyst  Ovum. The research house said although users in such areas typically do not have access to basic infrastructure or utilities, they are aware of the transformative potential of mobile phones and are eager to invest in a convenient device.

“Emerging markets will account for the bulk of the next billion connections, and despite increasing awareness of smartphones, these users will primarily purchase entry-level and feature phones,” said Shiv Putcha, Ovum telecoms analyst.

“Users from the next billion have a distinct hierarchy of expectations from their devices including durability, problem-solving features, versatility and connectivity. However, while connectivity is highly desirable, it is generally unaffordable, challenging to use and impractical for most users in rural and remote communities”.

Despite popularity of smartphones rising sharply, Ovum does not expect their average prices to fall considerably enough to be viable options for the next billion mobile users, who will rely on feature phones instead.

However, Putcha noted that device charging solutions are as crucial to the next billion as the device itself. While mobile phone battery life has improved considerably in the last few years, access to electricity in remote and rural areas has not. As a result, users in these areas have to factor the cost of recharging devices into their total cost of ownership or value considerations when buying a phone.

“The business of charging devices is progressing, and several charging solutions are already available from device vendors, NGOs, and startups. These can be standalone accessories designed exclusively for mobile phones, or appliances that provide electricity for multiple functions such as lighting as well as charging a mobile phone,” he concluded.


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