Global mobile market is in a churn

Special to Times of Oman

It was just an ordinary day in Berlin. It was just an ordinary soccer match being played under the glow of the afternoon sun. And from the VIP box, one Chinese lady was taking pictures of the match with her mobile phone.

Stop press!
Now there was nothing ordinary for two reasons. The lady in question was none other than Peng Liyuan, wife of visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and she was taking picture of the soccer match with Chinese made mobile handset, instead of an iPhone 5!

Instantly, this action of the Chinese First Lady was hailed as the signature of emergence of new confident China in the global cellular world. One Chinese cellular brand even came out with the slogan of 'Chinese dreams begins with China made goods'.

But in reality, it is not China alone but Brics nations as a whole that are all set to dominate the global cellular world in the coming years, stopping the US-European juggernaut.  If trend analysis of last 14 years' data is any pointer, emergence of Brics as all conquering power on the global mobile scene is a certainty.

The term Bric was first used by British economist Jim O'Neill in his 2001 article where he had clubbed the initial letters of Brazil, Russia, India and China together to coin the term. Much Later, in September 2006 foreign ministers of these 4 emerging economies met in New York. Thus began the journey of Bric.  South Africa joined the club in 2010 to make it Brics.

Currently these five nations have almost three billion mobile subscribers out of 6.8 billion global customers. India and China alone have almost 2.4 billion mobile subscribers.  

So already a huge market is emerging as far as subscriber numbers are concerned. And this is bound to tell upon the handset and networking markets as well.

In the list of global top 10 cellular service providers there are four companies belong to Brics nations — three Chinese and one Indian. Out of 3.1 billion subscribers managed by these 10 service providers, above mentioned 4 had almost half of it.

The global subscription figure is inclusive of all categories of mobile handset i.e. basic, feature and smartphone. As the mobile communication is poised to leapfrog from voice to data, smartphone has emerged as mobile computing device of choice for  the customer which  serves him practically in every  possible manner, right from voice calling to emailing, from net surfing to live streaming of that soccer match!

According to industry statistics, out of 1,936.2 million mobile handsets shipped in 2012, 694.8 million were smartphones. As per industry forecasts, out of 2,614.2 million handsets in 2016, smartphones would be around 1,342.5 million. And amidst this environment, industry forecast for 2014 shows more than 70 per cent smartphones would be sold in Brics only.  

The situation is such that in order to survive in the fast growing yet fiercely competitive Indian and Chinese markets, several European handset manufacturers have started customising, viz. rendering local alphabets in the keypads, local in-built applications etc.

Chinese handset manufacturers and their Indian counterparts have started giving the global players a tough time. On a Hongkong road, there is a billboard stating-big brother is watching you! Brics nations could be staring at new global mobile industry with same intense gaze!

The author is a senior journalist specialised in technology. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely his and not of Times of Oman.


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