60%, 362 Million, and 2 Billion 3 Mar, 2009

6/10 of the world’s population have a cellphone. In India, there are now 362 million wireless subscribers. And still, billions of people across the world have yet to make a phone call.

Staggering figures, all of these. And what’s even more breathtaking is the growth rate. In 2002, 15% of the world’s population had a cellphone. India adds around 10 million new wireless subscribers every month, and there are hundreds of millions more to connect.

But there are clear signs of a global slowdown in mobile subscriber growth. And at the same time, mobile operators – especially in emerging markets like India – are struggling to cope with with decreasing ARPUs and increasing mobile usage.

The key here is spelled rural telecom. This is where the next billion mobile users reside – in remote rural areas where basic infrastructure ingredients like electricity and all-weather roads don’t exist. Where potential ARPUs are below $2, and where you don’t find an abundance of skilled telecom engineers.

The trick to reaching these rural markets is to overcome the obstacles of power, cost, remoteness and skills. Conventional mobile infrastructure equipment is not designed for the rural requirements. Fortunately, there’s now WorldGSM™ – VNL’s solar powered GSM system that can offer mobile services to areas where ARPUs are $2 or less.

Rural telecom holds the potential of not only helping mobile operators improve the bottom line, but to also assist rural communities in their economic and social development. An opportunity few should like to pass by.

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