The future is emerging

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There was one clear message emanating from the recent Financial Times World Telecommunication Conference: Emerging markets will have developed beyond ‘emerging’ within five years.

The event, held on November 7 at London’s Landmark Hotel, saw representatives of telecoms companies from around the world meeting to discuss the theme for this year’s conference – Emerging Markets: the Key to Growth and Survival.

Topics included visions of the global telecommunications landscape in 2012, innovation in emerging markets and convergence and growth strategies.

KPMG, a provider of professional services including audit, tax, financial and risk advisory, sponsored the event. Its global communications and media practice chairman Sean Collins said: “There are 2.7 billion mobile subscribers worldwide and the conference is named to show that, over the next four years, emerging countries like Africa, Latin America and India will have gone beyond that tag.

“It was a very successful event. There might possibly have been too many companies giving corporate sales pitches and company profiles, but there was more panel discussion as the event went on, so more was gained from that.”

Dreadfully disappointed

Senior Ovum analyst Martin Garner, who attended the morning session on the first day, was more scathing. He said he was left so disappointed that he left before the afternoon had even begun. “From what I saw and heard, it was dreadfully disappointing and very boring,” he said.

“I came expecting plenty of panel discussions, to get an idea into how these emerging markets are developing, but was left with company profiles that had no real relation to the topic and who were actually struggling to get their real points across in a clear manner.

“However, I am told by my colleague who attended on the second day that there was more panel activity and that it was more beneficial.”

Day one did have its high points, however. During the opening morning, Sureyya Ciliv, CEO of Turkish telecoms company Turkcell, followed the company profile line to begin with, focusing on the growth of the company as a whole.

He added Turkcell’s accelerated growth has gone from four per cent in 2006 to 14 per cent in Q1 2007, and its subscriber base has grown from 31.8 million in 2006 to 33.8 million in Q2 2007.

But Ciliv then moved on to one of the more interesting subjects of the day, mobile banking, which was described as becoming one of the fastest growing technologies in emerging mobile markets.

“In today’s world, it’s not right to call a phone just a phone – it’s more like a mini computer,” he said.

“Our market has seen mobile banking in particular develop – it’s incredible that you do not need to withdraw money from your bank branch anymore.”

Peter Bladin, director of the Grameen Technology Centre and vice president of Grameen Foundation, which supports micro finance programs to help the poor lift themselves out of poverty, echoed Ciliv’s opinions of mobile banking, saying some emerging markets are perhaps ahead of developed markets in this sector.

“People living in rural areas find it difficult to reap the benefits others do, but we can already see mobile banking developing in rural areas where some residents find it difficult to get to a bank,” Bladin said.

“This has taken off very quickly. That’s the challenge for all of us in emerging markets to get to. I’m sure there will be more space and a vast development there.”

Garner commented: “The explosion of mobile banking was a big positive to come out of the conference. It appears the Philippines are well ahead of other world markets in that respect, perhaps even ahead of the UK.”

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