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.

December 22, 2010 22:12 telliott

In late November Google announced its participation in the final pre-launch funding round for O3b, a satellite network backed by SES and intended to provide broadband access to the developing world. The name refers to the “other 3 billion” – those of the world’s population without broadband connectivity – and the plan is to launch a constellation of Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites that will provide low latency broadband to the area roughly between 45° N and 45° S.

Google was one of the founding backers of O3b, back in 2008, when it confidently expected to have its satellites in orbit by 2010. The first launch is now scheduled for 2012.

I mention this slipped schedule not to be snarky – I’ve missed the occasional deadline and so have you – but to recall the problems of a previous bold satellite venture, the Iridium system. Iridium was going to provide seamless international mobile coverage to business travelers, who would need only one phone and one phone number around the world.

  • This was a great idea in the late 1980s and early 1990s when planning for the system started. A lot less great in 1998 when Iridium finally went commercial: vastly increased GSM coverage and global roaming that actually worked took a lot of value out of the Iridium value proposition.

Will this happen to O3b? Not necessarily, but the global broadband gap is narrowing.

  • Until recently, the African continent was virtually cut off from the global Internet. Now, a frenzy of submarine cable building has people seriously talking about a repeat of the Great Atlantic Bandwidth Glut. True, this only means great connectivity at the landing points; getting bandwidth 500 km inland will be a challenge for a while – and an opportunity for O3b.


  • 3G service is growing in emerging markets, and is frequently used as a broadband access technology. Coverage is still limited, of course, and is largely unavailable outside urban areas.

O3B promotes the potential of its service as a backhaul technology, and in this it may find more traction than it does as an access method. There are complications, of course. Among other things, the fact that MEO satellites are not geostationary means that any uplink has to have active tracking antennas and some way of handling satellite to satellite handoffs.

And that, as my grandfather said about the automatic transmission, is a lot of stuff to go wrong.

October 12, 2010 04:10 David Kerr

sa photo dk

At CTIA in San Francisco last week, away from the fanfare around LTE rollouts and the next dozen tablet devices (ok, I exaggerate a little), Sprint had an announcement which will have significantly higher impact on mobile broadband adoption and revenues: Sprint ID. 

Sprint ID promises to up the ante on personalization and ease current feature phone users into the smart phone ranks.

Sprint ID offers instant personalization along key themes/packs where the operator has done the heavy lifting of identifying and group related applications of interest to different persona from wallpaper to ringtones to apps. While the one click marketing line is not quite matched by reality given pesky little things like accepting terms and conditions etc, Sprint ID is a significant breakthrough in my opinion as:

  • it broadens the market appeal of Smart phones to current feature phones users with a simple to understand offer in a range of device price points including the critical $49 and $99 levels.
  • it tackles one of the biggest weakness of all app stores: discoverability of content and simple personalization.

Three handsets were featured at launch of Sprint ID: Sanyo Zio™, Samsung Transform™, LG Optimus S™. These three devices cover key price points in the Sprint portfolio and provide customers with a range of form factors, industrial design and brand to meet their tastes. Interesting to note that both LG and Sanyo retain the right to put their own packs on their handsets as well. This is a big win for LG as its Optimus S™ will be available for under $50 with contract giving the vendor a much needed boost in the smartphone space. Samsung meanwhile continues to shine at Sprint occupying the lucrative $149 spot with its Transform™. All three devices of course require a Sprint Everything Data plan.

However, for me the more significant impact is that operators and oems are finally realizing that customers don’t buy phones or services or apps… what they really want are positive experiences

… be that socially connected, sports, education, health and fitness, fashion etc. This is something that our User Experience team has been evangelizing for the last 7+ years. Whether its 80k apps on Android or 250k on Apple store or 10K on RIM, one common experience has been exasperation at the huge waste of time, energy and emotions in finding ANYTHING!!! Which happens first, eyes glazing over or fingers cramping with so much scrolling? Either way the net result is often a disappointing experience which the early smart phone coolaid drinkers have learned to live with.

Newbies to the smart phone arena, will certainly have less tolerance and spend less time to personalize their device and enable applications. Sprint ID is well tailored to the next wave who are taking tentative steps into the smart phone space


David Kerr


September 23, 2010 22:09 David Kerr

September 23, 2010

While there has understandably been a lot of attention given to consumer apps post iPhone and the plethora of application stores that have emerged, business mobility and enterprise mobility offer huge potential from horizontal to vertical applications and from smartphones to iPads and tablets to superphones.

In both NA and W. Europe, business customers account for under 30% of users but are the dominant streams of both revenue and profits for operators. On the device side, premium priced models from RIM, Nokia, and Microsoft Mobile licensees as well as the iPhone have long been key drivers of profits in a market where low single digit margins are the norm.  The explosion of smartphone choices has led to the battle ground moving beyond the corner office, to other executive and now increasingly the midlevel manager.

With a new range of devices competing for space in the corporate market, the issue of corporate versus individual liable has become an increasing priority for IT decision makers. Add on the complexity of managing an expanding list of OS (Android, iPhone, Windows Mobile, Symbian, Palm, MeeGo, Bada from Samsung) and the growing importance of mobile portable devices with access behind the firewall and one can already feel a corporate migraine forming…. And that’s before we even discuss device management, mobility policy, device retirement etc. etc.

I am looking forward to CTIA Fall (San Francisco October 5-7) and in particular to the Enterprise Mobility Boot Camp moderated by Philippe Winthrop of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation. The boot camp spread over two days will address many of the issue listed above with our own Andy Brown featured in an analyst roundtable on October 6th.  I look forward to meeting you there. Don’t hesitate to contact Philippe for passes to this the deep dive enterprise mobility event.

David Kerr

David Kerr
Snr. VP - Global Wireless Practice
Tel: +1 617 614 0720
Mob: +1 262 271 8974

June 4, 2010 20:06 David Kerr
sa photo dk




The inevitable movement to tiered pricing which started with Verizon Wireless acknowledging its plans to do so for LTE and has been accelerated with the much anticipated data plan announcement by AT&T this week.  So, what next?

    • Will we see significant priced based competition for mobile data among the top US operators?
    • Will we see significant movement in share of adds for AT&T as iPhone wannabees are tempted by a plan of only $15?
    • What impact will lower data plans for smartphones have on AT&T’s Quick Messaging Devices and Verizon Wireless equivalent?
    • How long before we see family data plans and shared usage across multiple devices?

The move by AT&T is a smart play to extend the smartphone momentum as the low hanging fruit of Apple aficionados, multimedia techies and style seekers willing to pay top dollar has been significantly penetrated.

There is no doubt that the iPhone remains the coolest device on the marketplace and the end to end user experience remains easily the best in class. So, reducing the TCO to attract the next 20% of customers to a paid data plans while educating customers about data usage levels and managing the traffic risk is very smart business in my opinion.

The lower price points will help AT&T maintain its current leading share of smartphone users and may be attractive to casual social networkers

  • Although the 50 photos allowance is not exactly generous! For casual messenger, and social network status checking and moderate email the new DataPlus plan is quite attractive overall and will likely attract a portion of customers who would otherwise opt for a Quick Messaging Device from AT&T or a competitive offering from Verizon Wireless.

I do expect to see some modest price competition among the big operators

  • with T-Mobile most likely to drive prices lower given their need for scale and to protect their predominantly youth centric customer base. but also expect an increasingly strong Verizon Wireless handset line up to compete strongly.

The impact on Quick Messaging Devices is in my opinion likely to be modest

  • as a traditional qwerty remains overwhelmingly the input of choice for heavy messengers in the US although there is definitely room for lowering the $10 mandatory data plan on featurephones

Family data plans and data plans which allow access across multiple devices are in the pipeline

  • but will probably not make an appearance until 2012+ as part of LTE offerings.

From a device vendor perspective, the move to lower priced iPhone plans is likely to put further pressure on vendors like LG who have yet to make a credible offer in this space as well as RIM who will find more competition in the consumer space.

The lower pricing on data plans will be music to the ears of ambitious new entrants like Huawei, ZTE who plan to bring mass market priced devices to the US & Europe. The lower TCO of smartphones as a result of downward pressure on service prices boost their addressable market.

May 20, 2010 21:05 David Kerr

sa photo dk


May you live in interesting times as the old Chinese proverb goes. Well in the information, communication and entertainment industry we certainly do. Some very interesting questions face our industry whether we look at:

  • the outcome of much delayed Indian 3G auction or
  • the battlegrounds around HSPA+ and LTE or
  • the surging Android ecosystem vs. weakening Symbian or
  • the upside potential for WebOS under it new owners
  • the potential disruption caused by mobile cloud phones and device

Every major technology advancement has lead to a massive disruption in the handset and infrastructure vendor community.

  • In 3G, Motorola’s slim myopia led to its near ruin and has provided huge growth for Samsung and a foothold in international markets for LG and SEMC.
  • On the infrastructure side 3G was expertly grasped by Huawei and ZTE leading to a new wave of M & A and a new world order which counts Nortel as a victim and seriously challenges ALU.

So how will the migration to 4G change the playing field?

  • Who will benefit most on the operator/service provider side?
  • Will Cloud Phones be disruptive in LTE?
  • Will operators find a path to realign the traffic/revenue mix with mobile broadband devices?

I would welcome your thoughts on these key questions. Also don’t forget to join our client webinar on Thursday May 27.



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.

March 24, 2010 14:03 telliott
Around the dawn of time – that is, 2004 or so – wireless religious wars raged, and an attractive WiMAX mythology got started. WiMAX was the Rebel Alliance against the Empire, the plucky little underdog technology stickin’ it to The Man, with his closed architectures and walled gardens. This mythology had flaws. To begin with, if “rebels” Intel, Craig McCaw, and Motorola aren’t The Man, they look an awful lot like him. And we should have kept religion out of it: it’s about making money getting bits from Point A to Point B, not about setting information free or changing the world. The proximate cause of this rumination was the announcement by Packet One, the Malaysian WiMAX operator, that 2010 is “the year of WiMAX devices.” (It’s also the year of biodiversity, according to the UN, and the year of the tablet, per Nvidia.) PacketOne will launch a WiMAX embedded netbook later this year, augmenting its array of dongles and fixed modems. And it’s this, rather than Sprint’s CTIA announcement of its WiMAX smartphone, that illuminates WiMAX’s true future. That is to say, WiMAX will make more money toting ones and zeros in places like Malaysia than in places like Las Vegas. Why? Because there isn’t much of anything else in the developing world, even in relatively advanced countries like Malaysia. Dodgy DSL and overworked or soon-to-be-overworked 3G networks pressed into service for fixed access. FTTH? Fuggedaboutit. LTE? LOL. WiMAX in its present state provides reasonably robust, reasonably affordable connectivity in the 512k to 1 Mbps range - most of the time - with user-installable CPE. Sure, they’d laugh at that in Seoul, but in Mombasa you’ll get some takers. Heck, you’ll get some in Waco, Texas. And to that point, this might be a good time to note that our modest WiMAX forecasts for emerging markets, while perhaps conservative, are generally in line with one known data point: Packet One’s 140,000 subscribers as of February. Early last year we forecast about 166,000 consumer subscribers in Malaysia by year-end 2010. A couple of other operators have finally launched, so that number will be surpassed, but not by an order of magnitude. It’s still going to be a small fraction of the total wireless subscription base. In other words, a good solid business meeting a real need. But no threat to the Empire. - Tom Elliott