Financial Times

Developing nation consumers prefer mobiles for Internet access


Research suggests that, in most developing countries, like Sri Lanka, consumers feel more comfortable using mobile phones than computers. As such, more consumers access the Internet through wireless means, such as by mobile phones. This is according to Nokia's General Manager for Emerging Asia, Prem Chand, who also added that current estimates indicate that 4 billion people have mobile phones; more than those who own computers. He attributed this to the medium's affordability, and accessibility, as cables, physical connections, etc. are not required for access to service.

Mr. Chand, who was visiting Sri Lanka after a lag of two years, indicated that a lot had changed since he had last visited. A feeling of greater confidence by the people he met for one, also greater growth in broadband offerings as well as mobile companies having done well in making technology available to consumers.

Additionally, while he was encouraged by his talks with government representatives and he felt that they had a good, balanced view of the local mobile telephony sector, Mr. Chand pointed out that there were several 'downsides', such as: many 'behind the scenes' taxes on the industry, which proved to be an additional burden on consumers as well as leading to increases in illicit trade. This supposedly also caused products to be illegally imported so governments would be deprived of revenue and consumers would be cheated by inauthentic products and, in extreme cases, may even be affected by products with questionable safety standards.

Mr. Chand also suggested that major concerns for the mobile telephony sector would continue to be areas like duty structure and intellectual property rights protection because companies like Nokia invest heavily in research and development and these areas impact profitability.

Commenting on the way forward for the industry, Mr. Chand noted that Nokia was planning for a future where it would ‘transition’ to being more of a provider of services and applications to customers rather than a hardware manufacturer, because mobile devices were now commodities.

He also promoted Nokia's increased focus on areas like its Ovi store for music, etc. and OviMail as well as its efforts in future trends such as 'social location', which allows mobile phone users to always be kept updated about the physical proximity and status of friends in their network by way of global positioning technology. He further indicated that in countries like Bangladesh, Thailand and the Philippines there was already an increasing emphasis on services and applications by consumers compared to hardware.

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