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Published on June 27th, 2007 | by Babar Bhatti


Future of Mobile Web in Emerging Markets

Over the past few months I have been writing about the mobile web trends in the developed world, such as Korea and Japan where new technologies are being tested. What about mobile web in emerging telecom markets of Pakistan, India etc? Even though most analysts agree that mobile web will be important for the emerging markets telecom, the industry is still struggling with the right solutions to make it happen. Here’s my analysis of the situation.

1. First phase of mobile web was played out in US/Europe/Korea-Japan. It provided valuable lessons. Those who thought that they could take today’s web and tweak it to squeeze it on to a mobile phone have failed miserably. 

2. The effort to control content and user navigation has hurt the experience of common users. It has also distracted the service providers … their focus has shifted away from the user. (The new CEO of  ATT recently admitted this at NXTcomm). Result: At this time there are too many incompatible solutions.  

3. The convergence of new user interface technologies and phone hardware improvements is promising. Approaches such as widgets, mobile ajax are changing the face of mobile web. Combine that with developments of cheaper phones with long-lasting batteries and expanded network capacities. This is incremental progress so it will be a while before the world sees their impact.

4. It takes a big leap of faith for non-Internet users to do anything beyond basic voice and messaging on a phone. How is the industry going to tackle this issue and establish trust?

5. The billion-dollar question is: Will the mobile web be relevant for rural area users of Pakistan or India? These hundreds of millions of users have not even heard of Internet. What feature set, level of localization and adaptation will be needed for them?

The CEO of Mobio Networks wrote a recent piece in Financial Express: Simply taking web experience on mobiles won’t work. Even though most of it is just advertisement for his company his points about mobile web are also valid for Pakistan. I will present my critique of his product in a later post but here are some excerpts:

The emergence of value added services (VAS) is one trend that is being followed closely and with great interest by industry analysts and policy makers worldwide. In India, the mobile phone has emerged as the most prevalent device to access the Internet. Most of the industry up till now has been focused on investments in wireless infrastructure. Now that a large part of that investment is behind us, attention is inevitably shifting to VAS.

The consumer is asking for the next set of services-beyond ring-tones, wallpaper, games, SMS. However, few VAS providers have realised that simply taking the web experience and miniaturising it for mobile delivery doesn’t work. The consumer is left with a poor experience and abandons the service quickly

These range from applications in social media to dynamic widgets scaled down to fit the way people actually interact with information on the go. People want to buy train or movie tickets, read their horoscopes and catch up on the gossip about their favourite Bollywood or Hollywood stars. We cut through this clutter and deliver a mobile web experience that works typically in three clicks or less with zero or minimal data entry. We see it as developing meaningful content and applications, designed and built from the ground up to realise true value from the mobile phone.

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5 Responses to Future of Mobile Web in Emerging Markets

  1. mohsin says:

    i think mobile web needs to get further mature, the reason why less people in pakistan are using it because of lack of awareness, we have very less population using the internet, how can we expect them to use mobile web

  2. zodiaclove says:

    I don’t agree with what you wrote really….
    please explain further a bit more for me :D

    thank you

  3. Junaid Naseer Faroqui says:

    Hi Ajit & Babar,

    The picture of mobile web users in Pakistan is not too good. VAS is getting the pace but active log of web users in every network providers bracket is less than 0.5% of total subscriber base. This is the result of both lack of awareness and non technology friendly attitude. That is why VAS providers in Pakistan and network operators are capitalizing on other areas like IVR and SMS connectivities.

    Since Pakistani network operators are still in the phase of penetration, they are focusing more on voice services and coming up with new packages and offers to get a bigger chunk from market. Provision of MNP (Mobile number portability) in Q2 of 2007 has made it easy for users to switch networks.

    Please share, what are the happening in India?


  4. Babar Bhatti says:

    Ajit, thanks for the visit and comments. According to my research the number of mobile web users in Pakistan is very small. SMS and other value-added services are popular though so if one could introduce useful services which could link sms or other vas to mobile web then we might see some change.

  5. Ajit Jaokar says:

    Babar, thanks for this. yes, this is a big topic. I am always interested to know actual services that are working in emerging markets. If you have some good examples from Pakistan, please email me and I shall blog abouit it kind rgds Ajit

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