Deploying wireless in these top emerging markets requires realistic expectations
By Paul Rasmussen
Multinational mobile operators looking to expanding into new regions will face challenges when entering emerging markets disturbingly similar to those they are currently facing in their home markets.
While the opportunities in these new regions, in terms of potential subscriber growth, might look impressive, the business model required to be successful is dramatically different. According to Devine Kofiloto, a principal analyst with Informa Telecoms & Media, the larger cities in the emerging regions are already nearing saturation levels. â€œChina is considered an emerging market because of its overall low penetration, perhaps around 40 percent overall. But this is skewed by the very high penetration in the key cities - approaching 90 percent. This must be balanced by the huge rural areas were cell phone ownership is very low.â€
â€œMost of the future potential now is in these low-income rural areas â€“ and itâ€™s the push into these areas that is creating the challenges for operators. To expand a network to cover this low-income segment needs very careful balancing with regard to ROI,â€ Kofiloto adds.
Kofiloto maintains that operators cannot afford to deploy networks based upon the ARPUs seen in mature markets. â€œFor example, in Africa, ARPU is around US$13 per month but predicted to fall to US$11, or less, within the next five years. But, even with ARPUs at these levels, itâ€™s possible for operators to make a profit. Itâ€™s all about finding a very cost-effective means of extending services to rural areas and low-income brackets.â€