Mobiles for the Next Billion

The Economist writes:

Games consoles are the most powerful mass-produced computers in the world, but mobile phones are the most numerous. And the handset-makers, like the console-makers, will also be reaching out to new markets in 2006. In September 2005 the number of mobile phones in use passed the 2 billion mark, according to industry statistics. Since nearly everyone in the developed world now has a mobile phone, most of the next billion subscribers will come from the developing world, in particular from China, India, Latin America and Africa. Indeed, Africa now leads the world in subscriber growth: in some African countries subscriber growth exceeds 150% a year.

The greatest barrier to wider adoption is the cost of handsets. Azmi Mikati, the boss of Investcom, which runs mobile-phone networks in the Middle East and Africa under the name Areeba, says subscriber numbers would double in those markets if the cost of the cheapest handsets could be brought down to $30, from around $60 in early 2004.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.