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Developing markets playing leapfrog
During the height of the high-tech bubble, many wouldn’t have guessed developing markets would showcase future technology and innovation. But when it comes to the telecommunications industry, this trend is appearing.
With the lack of legacy infrastructure and tight regulatory controls, planning and deployment of mobile networks can be very fast in developing markets compared to equivalent networks in developed markets.
Technologies such as mobile phones can be dropped into developing countries without having to build expensive infrastructure and can therefore completely disregard the failings of old 19th- and 20th-century technology.
The Economist has indeed been quoted as saying “poor countries will leapfrog into the next generation” and evidence can be seen of commercial development when Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao recently proclaimed “we’re an emerging markets company”.
As well as developing markets being early adopters of technology, native companies in such markets are quickly beginning to rival those multinationals we are all familiar with in the developed markets when it comes to innovating.
In 1995, only 15% of the world's mobile subscribers were in developing markets, but by the end of 2010, this has jumped to 79%.
Such growth has driven innovation and now means that Huawei and ZTE, for example, are making more patent applications than all other network equipment suppliers combined.
With commercial LTE coverage already having appeared in a total of nine developing markets by the end of 2011, perhaps telecoms expert Alan Quayle had a point when he wrote “the developed markets need to start innovating like the developing market! Else be left behind.”