How To Connect More Users

Even though mobile phones are almost global, only about 12 percent of people in emerging economies have data connection. What is even more surprising is that 4.3 billion people still do not have access to the Internet.

These unconnected people are living in countries that have underdeveloped economies with digital infrastructure that is lacking as well. However, there is huge growth potential if there could only be connectivity. I believe that with the right ICT and strong policies that are in support of innovation and fair competition, these countries can connect their people to the rest of the word and narrow the digital divide.

download (2)Most importantly, a broadband infrastructure with wider coverage and faster speeds must be developed. These countries need to see that broadband is the critical foundation of national infrastructure that will only increase economic growth and raise the standard of living.

One way that the infrastructure could be built is by Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). Malaysia has already done this – regulators created a framework that ensured competition with equal access. The result? The cost of digital entry for citizens was decreased, fostering innovation and competition among service providers – very successful, in my opinion.

While these networks are being launched, telecom operators need to keep costs low. They could do this by sharing optical fiber and infrastructure with power and utility companies. When you take a look at the deployment cost, burying the fiber optic cables and conduits underground is usually 40 percent, but can be up to 70 percent of the total cost. These high costs make the Internet access more expensive to its end users.

There should also be new mechanisms for allocating radio spectrum that can increase supply while also reducing the cost. This is actually a very important issue because most of these countries will have to increase their available spectrum (the basis for high-speed mobile broadband) from 50 to 100 percent over the next five years.

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Something else that would help are the development of more applications to aid their lifestyle. Apps are what drive the demand for connectivity and create new business models. M-KOPA for example, allows Kenyan households with no electricity to purchase their very own solar power system and make daily micro-payments. If the government can create a level playing field that lets entrepreneurs to devise new solutions without having to worry about monopolistic competitors or too much regulation, there could be great benefits to local users.

It will take governments, operators, technology providers and application developers, but we can connect everyone in the world and we will.

If Apple’s Rumors Were True…

Most find existing cell service carriers scheming and infuriating. One solution for this problem would be to buy your cell phone plan from the same company that makes your iPhone. Imagine just walking into your local Apple store and buying your phone and it’s service all in one stop. Never again would you have to practically beg customer service representatives from traditional telecom companies to solve your problem or get you in touch with someone who could.

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This isn’t the first time that there have been rumors of an Apple-branded cell phone plan. However, Apple continues to deny the speculation. But, what would happen if Apple decided to go forward with offering cell service?

Carriers like Verizon and AT&T are trying to acquire as much digital content as they can to charge their customers to stream over their cellular network. They have to do this because it is much less profitable to only provide access to basic data. The hot commodity is now connectivity. The only way to avoid the problem is for traditional telecom companies to purchase content warehouses such as DirecTV and AOL, then monetize.

If Apple would provide a strong cell service of its own, they would have to do a few things. First, build a telecom infrastructure to carry calls or be a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) by leasing it wholesale. This would mean that big investments would have to be made into an industry with shrinking margins. Even setting up routed calls over free WiFi connections would not be original and not suitable coming from Apple.

In order to turn a profit, Apple would need to offer digital content such as TV shows, music and movies. Apple could make their anticipated streaming video app, Apple TV, available to consumers over a cellular connection. However, once again, this would not be original in the industry, therefore, not Apple. In the case, the company would also need to pay huge sums to build cell towers of its own or pay rivals like Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon to use their networks.

Let’s compare Apple with Google for a minute. Google has already entered the industry with its broadband service, Google Fiber and its cell service with Project Fi. Google makes a profit off of user data instead of service subscriptions, so it has the power to take money-losing positions. So, when the other carriers are bullied into lower rates because of Google, more people use the Internet, giving Google more power.

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Apple isn’t a data company like Google and doesn’t have great performance in cloud-based products. Apple sells hardware, but that doesn’t mean it can’t enter other businesses. However, Apple is more likely to enter into better expanding industries such as automotives.

Even though launching cell service could prove that it is an innovator, disrupting the wireless industry in a revolutionary way would take a lot of effort. Apple should focus on doing what they’re good at, building new machines.