One of the most frequently told success stories about telecommunications in developing markets is how the advent of mobile technologies meant that markets that lacked fixed line infrastructure were able to leapfrog to a newer technology that has shaped a mobile-friendly society and ecosystem in these regions. This concept / movement still stands true, now with even great opportunity leap ahead of developed markets when it comes to technology leadership – and that is with video.
Video usage on mobile devices has the future potential to grow faster than in developed markets purely because smartphones and tablets are more likely to be people’s first, and only, connection to the Internet. In developed markets we have become used to delineating our usage of devices for particular purposes – home PC for online banking and mobile for instant messaging for example – whereas in developing markets because access to these solutions comes at once through one device there is a willingness to use mobile for a wider and potentially more bandwidth hungry range of applications.
That’s not to say that all developing markets will have the same experience. The regulatory structure and environment of some developing markets is more restrictive than others and we may see regulators choose to limit spectrum in order to conserve bandwidth or to limit access to certain kinds of application. Those markets are less likely to experience the leapfrog effect as a result, while the more liberal / able markets will fully capitalise on mobile broadband availability.
What I find of particular interest in this debate is the opportunities it opens up to developing markets. For example, India is known as the centre for many customer support operations globally. If these service operators were able to exploit the potential of mobile broadband and give customers the comfort of seeing their counterpart via video / even more usage of animated type video programmes – that would significantly enhance the customer experience.
Or to give a more life-enhancing example – a woman in a remote location experiencing medical issues will be able to use mobile video to have a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare professional without risking the long and dangerous journeys that are often the challenge in remote parts of the world. Or a would-be accountant from Dhaka might be able to impress more in his interview by using video (even if very basic) on his mobile phone than he would over a traditional call. The benefit of providing the face-to-face connection might just be the difference that helps developing countries take a leap forward.
All this obviously depends on having the bandwidth available at a cost that people can afford. Mobile service providers will need to adapt the way they offer data packages to customers to manage the rapidly increasing load and to give a consistent user experience. Managing the policies behind the delivery of advanced mobile solutions will be critical in enabling people from developing markets to leapfrog not just technology but their own possible restrictions.
There are still lots of factors at play, but there is much potential in these markets with video and as they reach levels where they are able to open up more affordable bandwidth access to the masses… this continues to be an interesting space to watch ….