THE BLOG

The Search for Telecoms Solutions for the Developing World

16/12/2014 06:54 GMT | Updated 14/02/2015 10:59 GMT

It's no secret that the demand for telecoms in India and other parts of the developing world is accelerating fast. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the number of mobile-cellular subscriptions worldwide is fast approaching seven billion, that's the number of people on earth - and more than half of these are in the Asia-Pacific region.

And it's not just cell phones that are taking off in a big way compared to in the West. Mobile broadband is growing twice as fast in developing countries and, by the end of the year, the number of Internet users in emerging nations will have doubled in five years, from 974 million in 2009 to 1.9 billion in 2014.

But these customers are changing. Their expectations are rising and evolving. They are becoming ever more sophisticated. Quite rightly, they're no longer satisfied with just being connected. They also want the same top-quality services available to customers in the developed world. This rising demand for customer-orientated online services has not yet been met. There's lots of innovation 'white space' out there and that means there are vast opportunities for forward-looking companies both in the developing world and in the West.

However, a note of caution for ambitious Western telecoms companies: the demands and needs of people living in emerging countries are very different to those in the developed world. Issues we in the West don't consider too big a problem can be a real challenge for customers in emerging nations.

In India, for example, SMS spam, unwanted sales calls and unknown callers are a huge problem. This issue has got so bad for many that some people have simply given up on reading their text messages and leave phone calls to go unanswered. International call costs are also an issue along with security in chat room communications. You can add all these problems to poor customer service, the high cost of handsets, infrastructure connectivity and poor bandwidth issues.

So what are we doing about this? Not enough, in my view. For too long, companies have believed that people in developing markets will be content with simple services - just basic connectivity. But these economies are developing and that's no longer the case - we're looking at a market that is changing rapidly. People are becoming more astute, more educated and more demanding every day. They want exactly what we are starting to get in the West: to be able to plug-in to an ecosystem of mutually supportive, useful digital services that 'sit on' the telecoms infrastructure.

To service these growing demands, we need companies that can identify the issues and invest in innovative new research. We need forward-thinking businesses that don't just impose Western technology and branding on the developing world but support them to create telecoms solutions that are tailored-made for their specific market and culture. We need to do more listening and learning - and more working together.

I see India as the 'telecoms template' for the developing world. In India there is a huge growing middle class and a real, genuine desire to get the whole country connected. But even more than this there are a large number of highly educated, innovative people with top-class technology skills who can power this revolution from the inside.

At New Call Telecom we're tapping into this domestic research and development talent through our superb team in Gurgaon, India; a team of talented 'silicon valley' engineers and highly experienced marketers committed to overcoming the root problems in Indian telecoms and in doing so creating new revenue streams for our growing platform. I know that it won't be enough to copy what has worked in the West; instead, we need to find new innovative solutions that fit the technological constraints of the country and embrace its unique culture. Only then will the people of India get the digital life they want and deserve.