Emerging Markets, Emerging Powerhouses

March 25, 2015
In 2014, the number of people worldwide with connection to the Internet was estimated at around 3 billion, compared to 25 million in 1994 ...
In 2014, the number of people worldwide with connection to the Internet was estimated at around 3 billion, compared to 25 million in 1994, according to a study by Juniper Networks (NYSE:JNPR). Over the last 20 years, this access has changed the way people around the globe interact, work and live.

However, the company's Global Bandwidth Index indicated that consumers in the emerging nations are utilizing their connectivity in different ways than developed markets. For example, in developing regions, 24% of respondents reported using connected devices for educational purposes on a regular basis vs. only 12% in developed markets. Professional development has a similarly large gap: 46% (emerging) vs. 27% (developed). In developed regions, people are more likely to say they are using their devices for thinks like banking, shopping and searching for local information.

Acknowledging the effect technology is having on the personal and professional development of their citizens, governments of many emerging markets are embracing technology and are looking at how to empower their citizens and develop their economies, said Adrian Pickering, VP, Middle East & Africa, Juniper Networks. "What you see in this region are countries looking at implementing state-of-the-art technology and leapfrogging generations of technologies."

In the United Arab Emirates, the government has laid out a well-defined policy for infrastructure development and has implemented, among other things, something called Dubai Internet City - a publically funded ICT hub designed to attract foreign investment and organizations into the region. Companies like Oracle (NYSE:ORCL), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), General Electric (NYSE:GE), and, of course, Juniper, have moved regional offices into Dubai.

"The government was in essence building a (technology) park, but as part of building a physical infrastructure, they were putting in place a communications network that provided the latest generation technologies for voice, data, video communications," Pickering said.

The next step has been to push individual entities to provide access to citizen-type services across the network. Vehicle registration can be done from a mobile device, parking can be paid online, insurance renewed through a mobile app, etc. "There is a big push for mobile applications at the moment," Pickering said. "They are using 4G to streamline and enhance the experience of the individual utilizing the latest network technology. It is a stated direction from the leadership of the country to the individuals running entities (like utilities or the traffic authority)."

In Pakistan late last year, spectrum was auctioned off to enable operators to provide 3G and 4G services. "There is a pent-up demand in that country, which is the sixth most populous nation, with something like almost 50% under the age of 25. The pent-up demand for people to have access to the Internet for education and information is enormous," Pickering said, noting he expects the result of this access to be similar to what has happened in Nigeria where 3G launched 5-6 years ago.

"In Nigeria, the telecom operators have the highest average revenue per user than anywhere else (in the Middle East and Africa region)," Pickering said. "The population wants access to learning ... they want to be able to put their businesses on the web so they can conduct trade."

Of the 3 billion people worldwide with access to the Internet, 2.3 billion are mobile broadband subscribers. The traditional fixed network in many emerging markets is limited so that mobile broadband, once it becomes available, has a quick uptake, particularly since the price point of smart devices is coming down. "(At Mobile World Congress,) I was with the CEO of one of the big operators in Pakistan. He (told) me ... the growth of IP traffic on his network is in excess of 300% per annum, and he expects it to accelerate now that he has a 3G license," Pickering said.

What is needed from vendors and even service providers from developed markets is consultancy in terms of network design, best practices, lessons learned, etc. "How can they move their network infrastructure from where they are now to accommodate three to four times the broadband in 24 months time? How can they re-architect their infrastructure to be efficient and optimized but provide high quality of services?" Pickering said.