November 15, 2016

Insights into GSMA's Inaugural 'Global Mobile Trends' Report

On Oct. 6, 2016, the GSMA launched its inaugural Global Mobile Trends report, which offers "a vast wealth of data and insight on the state of the mobile ecosystem today and mapping out its future development," according to the London, England-based organization's press release. "This flagship report, produced by GSMA Intelligence, the research arm of the GSMA, compiles data on mobile subscriber growth trends, mobile internet adoption, devices, and industry financials from both a global and regional perspective."

The 2016 edition of the Global Mobile Trends report is organized into five sections: Megatrends; Consumer Insights; Industry Performance and Mobile Ecosystem Dynamics; Future View and Regional View.

Asia becoming the growth engine of the mobile ecosystem is one key point found within the "Megatrends" section. In its press release, the organization explains that "more than one billion additional people worldwide will be connected to mobile networks by 2020. Approximately a third of these new users will come from India (337 million), underlining the country's increasing position as the world's most significant mobile growth market, overtaking China."

Furthermore, "China is forecast to add more than 200 million subscribers and there will also be major net subscriber contributions from Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. In total, these six Asian markets will account for approximately 60 percent of the 1.1 billion new subscribers added globally by the end of the decade." Whether a company is focused on developing hardware or software for the mobile ecosystem, it must consider how to penetrate the rapidly growing Asian market.

The report provides a clear illustration how "the internet is mobile, and mobile is the internet." Over the past 10-15 years, I have witnessed how the increasing adoption of mobile phones (and smartphones specifically) over the past few years has empowered people in developed and emerging markets alike to access the internet. During my travels to emerging markets in recent years, I have come to appreciate how the mobile phone serves as the only access point for millions of people to reach the internet. Therefore, I am not surprised by the report's claim that "mobile internet penetration reached 44% by the end of 2015" and "by 2020 we expect it to be 60%, with smartphones the only access point for many in emerging markets. For an entire generation, the internet is now inextricably linked with mobile and vice versa."

Encouragingly, "Income will become less of a barrier to smartphone ownership." The report further elaborates that "the main sources of future growth in smartphone adoption will be India and a number of other emerging markets (such as Nigeria and Indonesia). This will be driven by continued falls in device costs and rising incomes. Several low-income countries (e.g. GDP/capita below $10,000) will have smartphone adoption rates of 60–70% by 2020, similar to most advanced regions."

Lastly, as a shareholder and executive of ROI3, Inc., a company creating localized content, services, and applications for smartphone and tablet users in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, I am quite pleased to see an important question posed on page 42: "What is local content and why does it matter?" The report correctly says:
In trying to connect the unconnected to the internet, content has for many years been the forgotten ingredient, with efforts prioritized in expanding coverage and lowering the cost of ownership.
These are, of course, fundamental, but so too is the question: is the internet relevant for me? 
The surprising truth is that for many non-users, the answer so far has been no, even if they can access and afford it. 
As such, efforts have shifted among mobile operators and internet companies into designing content and services that appeal on a local level, both in language and in the value proposition.
If you work in the mobile technology industry, I highly recommend reading this comprehensive 121 page report. What information do you find valuable?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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