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Mobile Phone to be Ubiquitous, like Electricity

You have the right to remain silent, but do you also have the right to talk on a mobile phone? The answer is yes, according to iSuppli Corp., as mobile phones become increasingly ubiquitous, even among low-income subscribers in developing regions of the globe.

For mobile-phone makers, this phenomenon is posing both challenges and opportunities as they strive to offer cost-reduced products that appeal to the third world. Speaking at the iSuppli 2006 North American event, analysts discussed the emerging market for such inexpensive phones, including a new breed of Ultra Low-Cost Handsets (ULCHs).

"A prominent statesman once expressed the opinion that the ability to communicate with a phone has become a basic human right," said Dale Ford, vice president, market intelligence, for iSuppli. "So, the wireless handset market has moved from being a dollars-and-cents issue to becoming a basic human rights issue."

Ford said that this view of mobile phones is borne out by the wide adoption of mobile phones among a large portion of the world’s population. "The level of penetration globally for wireless communications is astounding," Ford said. "Nothing comes close, except for electrical power."

The number of worldwide subscribers for wireless communications services is expected to increase to 4 billion by 2010, up from 2.6 billion in 2006, according to iSuppli. This growth is being driven largely by new subscribers in developing nations.

"With the world’s population at 6-plus billion, and with mobile-phone subscribers expected to rise to 4 billion in four years, the statesman’s words were visionary," Ford said. "At the time the statement was made, I was skeptical. But now we see that mobile phones are an enabling factor, not just for the economic growth of nations, but also for individuals’ ability to live and thrive in the developing world."

Ford said key regions are driving this subscriber growth, including Africa, the Middle East and India. Despite this, global wireless communications subscriber growth actually is decelerating as markets in developed nations become increasingly saturated. This makes the developing regions vitally important to the continued growth of the mobile-phone business.

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