Thanks to air travel the world has gotten a little smaller. And now, thanks to mobile broadband the world will get a little more connected. And while the Middle East and Africa have trailed behind Europe, Asia and North America, even remote parts of these developing regions will soon be connected as well.
It was reported this week that mobile broadband will expand in Africa and the Middle East, and will grow in revenue from about one billion dollars a year to nearly six billion dollars in the next two years. Part of the reason is that new undersea cables will soon bring broadband to these regions. And if you remember, even Dubai was not immune from total Internet loss just about a year and a half ago when the single undersea broadband cable was cut in the Red Sea.
This week, Delta Partners released a report that suggests that lower pricing in the developing world could lead to mobile broadband growth. The firm predicted that these two regions could see an increase from 2.5 million users to around 40 million by 2011. There are 17 million potential subscribers in the Middle East, along with 24 million potential users in Africa.
As I’ve often stated, for many the third screen of the mobile phone will be more important than the first screen (TV) or the second screen (computers) in the developing world. And while this could pave the way for delivery of news and entertainment directly to individuals, communication is still paramount to the users. And here is where VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) could further take off. Mobile broadband is essential to make VOIP a possibility, and this could be good news at first for existing companies such as Skype, but could also lead to competition. Either way for those in these regions, or those traveling there, it might just be a bit easier to stay connected.
Airlines Adopting Mobile Services
Already some airlines are offering the option to check-in via a mobile phone, and some even allow you to use the handset as a boarding pass. But this could become the norm, according to air transport IT specialist SITA and Airlines Business magazine, which together looked at how mobile services are being adopted by the airline industry. eMarketer.com reported on the findings and noted that currently 38 percent of carriers offer flight cancellation or delay information to a mobile handset, while 42 percent of carriers plan to add the feature by the end of 2010.
Among the other findings noted by eMarketer was the move toward in-flight mobile connectivity, including the ability to offer Wi-Fi or GSM/GPRS in-flight services.
Much of the communication could be limited to allowing the crew to send and receive data about flight and passenger information, and to handle things such as credit card processing. But it is still in doubt whether mobile communication will be offered directly to passengers.
Now as a frequent business flyer, the ability to check and send e-mail, text messages and connect with my colleagues is a great option. That is at least until the bill comes. Even if these features will arrive, the airlines will impose whatever costs they choose, and given that meals, beverages and practically all other amenities are now offered at a charge, it is hard to believe that the airlines will give these services away. More likely this will be another premium.