Zander: Phones generate growth

Mobile phone penetration can act as a powerful engine for economic growth, according to the CEO of one of the world’s largest mobile phone companies.

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By  Chris Whyatt Published  February 26, 2006

Mobile phone penetration can act as a powerful engine for economic growth, according to the CEO of one of the world’s largest mobile phone companies. Speaking at the 3GSM World conference in Barcelona this month, Motorola CEO Ed Zander said that the mobile phone industry is turning away from the saturated markets of Western Europe and North America and asking the heads of developing nations — many of which lie in the Middle East — to lift regulatory barriers. “Every time you have ten more phones per 100 people, you have an increase in GDP (gross domestic product) of 0.6%,” said Zander, whose company provides low-cost (less than US$40) handsets to poor countries, currently shipping at a rate of 31,000 phones a day. “We stand on the brink of a new world where mobile communications will help people overcome poverty and realise their potential,” he claimed. Countries that continue to impose taxes on handsets, and other restrictions on mobile operators, will delay or even deny the economic benefits from ‘connecting the unconnected’, said Zander, who cited a study projecting additional sales of one billion handsets in 50 countries if they were to exempt mobile phones from all value-added taxes and customs fees. Tarek Kamel, Egypt’s minister for commerce and IT, was another championing the potential benefits of liberalisation at the 3GSM World Conference. Egypt has just released a request for proposals for a third mobile operator, in order to further open up its telecoms market to investment and competition. Mobile penetration currently only stands at 19% in Egypt: but demand is overwhelming its two present operators Orascom and MobiNil. “The more we deregulate, the more we re-regulate in the right direction. We get more growth,” enthused Kamel, pointing out phones and services must be cheap. “The more we reduce the price, this drives growth and this brings opportunity,” he went on to add. A host of Middle East mobile operators made their presence felt amongst the frenetic atmosphere of 3GSM. At the conference, Kuwait’s Watiniya launched a new ‘GoDo’ mobile portal, which will run on the ClixSmart Intelligent Portal Platform. The new mobile internet service offers a wide range of real-time content including ringtones, games, wallpapers, greeting cards and news and entertainment services to Wataniya’s subscribers in Kuwait — in both Arabic and English. “Wataniya is continuously looking to provide customers with the latest innovations and highest standards in mobile services,” said Harri Koponen, general manager and CEO, Wataniya Telecom. “We have been greatly impressed with how quickly we have launched our new flagship GoDo portal service using ChangingWorlds’ ClixSmart solution. It opens an exciting world of compelling services for our customers by providing them with an outstanding user experience, bringing personalised entertainment, information and news to their mobile devices,” he added. Bahraini operator Batelco also announced it had selected Openmind Networks to deploy a new range of SMS solutions for its customers.

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