Emerging Markets Communications Strategies

Analyzes the issues facing existing and new players who are looking for a share of growing mobile markets in over 30 developing countries, including the developing regions of Asia and Africa.

April 28, 2010 03:04 telliott

"I have been over into the future and it works” said Lincoln Steffens after a 1921 visit to Russia. Well, I have been over into one version of the present –Internet access in Manila via 3G dongle – and I’m not quite as optimistic as Steffens. True, Globe Tattoo is way better than my hotel’s lame Wi-Fi, but I don’t think it’s a long term solution for connectivity, whether for the First, Second, or Third World. Good news first. Setup was easy. The instructions showed clearly how the SIM card slips into the Huawei-built dongle, which my computer recognized with no issues.  tattoo-dongle2.jpg

After a couple of minutes of software loading, I was online, at respectable if not blazing speeds. Keeping half an eye on a speed meter, I recorded one instantaneous burst of 539.4 kbps, and several in the 200’s and 300’s, although the average was a lot lower.

  • Considering the slow dial-up speeds the hotel’s Wi-Fi was delivering, I wasn’t unhappy. And as a bonus, Globe is cheaper. Globe bills at PHP 5 (US$ 0.11) per 15 minute increment. This would be PHP 480 (US$ 10.90) for 24 hours, versus the hotel’s PHP 600 (US$ 13.65).

So what’s not to like? Inconsistency, for one thing. Those average speeds contained a lot of slow periods mixed with some high speed bursts. Even when stationary it kept slipping from HSDPA to what it calls 3G to EDGE speeds. This presumably reflects the shifting burden of traffic on capacity-limited cell sites even in (I blush to admit) one of Manila’s more upscale districts. speed-meter.jpg

This is a problem for applications like Strategy Analytics’ VPN, which requires regular communication from the client. Something – possibly the dead spells or the switching from HSDPA to 3G – interferes with that check-in process, dropping me many times. VoIP is out of the question – I couldn’t even talk with Globe customer service.And what did I want to talk with Customer Service about? Why, how to add more funds to my account, of course. Tattoo may be imperfect, but it beats the alternative.

  • And speaking of alternatives, this experience has made me appreciate that the emerging market opportunity for overlay wireless data networks, whether WiMAX or LTE, is not just a rural and secondary city play. There might be a few takers right here in Makati.

April 7, 2010 16:04 rgupta


At last Bharti Airtel became the first Indian company to have presence in 18 countries. Bharti closed the Zain deal at $10.7 billion, which many equity analysts believe is an expensive deal, but Bharti’s African foray is a long term bet and only time will tell what future holds for Bharti in Africa. At the moment, Bharti is busy negotiating with Indian IT vendors for outsourcing African ‘non-core’ operations, something which it successfully did in the Indian market.


On the face of it, Bharti has got what it had been looking for years- presence in Africa, which it desperately needed, as its profit margins in India have been under pressure due to the massive domestic tariff war and the stiff competition provided by as many as 14-15 operators in each circle in India. Realizing the potential that African countries have, Bharti twice tried to acquire MTN but failed. Now, it has managed to get Zain in its kitty.


In January this year when Bharti acquired a majority stake in Bangladesh’s Warid, I wrote in my blog  ( http://blogs.strategyanalytics.com/gwp/?p=28 ) that Bharti would not benefit by foraying into small individual pockets like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Acquiring Warid immediately after the MTN deal was called off clearly showed that Bharti became much more aggressive in its acquisition strategy. At that time, Bharti was desperate and ambitious and looking for some big catch. I think Zain came at the right time as it fulfilled Bharti’s ambitions to become one of world’s largest operators. 

  Bharti’s new innings started on a good note as deal went through smoothly but challenges are ahead. EMCS benchmarked Zain in its report (http://www.strategyanalytics.com/default.aspx?mod=ReportAbstractViewer&a0=4837 ) and it was very clear that Zain’s performance was below average and ARPU and EBITDA were at or below regional average. It’s a challenge as well as an opportunity for Bharti.

We did a strategic assessment of Bharti ( http://www.strategyanalytics.com/default.aspx?mod=ReportAbstractViewer&a0=5166 ) and highlighted the fact that limited data service offerings is Bharti’s weakness. Hence Bharti will have to play the ‘voice’ game in African markets also and have to improve ARPU’s.


Challenges will always be there but Bharti’s presence itself in Africa is enough to give jitters to its competitors, especially MTN. After dealing with MTN, Bharti is very well aware of their operational strategies, which is an advantage to Bharti. Its competitors will feel the pinch with Bharti’s outsourcing and low-cost model. Don’t know how MTN will deal with it but Bharti has certainly made a right move.

  Rahul Gupta