2009 has been billed as a year of doom and gloom, but there are opportunities available for investors, operators and vendors in the global mobile industry, according to a new report. Released this week, the Informa Telecoms & Media Global Mobile Market Outlook report forecasts that emerging markets hold the best potential from growth for the mobile sector in 2009. “Like any sector, those companies that can most clearly and effectively differentiate their services from those of their competitors, and build their brand, will win out by retaining existing custom(at a time when an increasing number of consumers will review their spending plans) and by winning new business. The global mobile industry will be no different – indeed, understanding and managing customer needs will be the key to ensuring customer loyalty, which will prove to be a priceless commodity in 2009” explains Principal Analyst, Nicholas Jotischky.
Emerging markets remain at the centre of this opportunity. Untainted by saturation, Informa suggests that there are still considerable margins for growth in some of the world’s most populous markets such as India, Indonesia and Nigeria. And the potential does not just revolve around new customers, but in serving those most recently connected with greater content offerings and value-added applications. Furthermore, with operators in emerging economies looking to cut costs, we can expect to see the outsourcing of network maintenance to become a growing trend.
In the Middle East, revenues from mobile data services in the third quarter of 2008 reached US$1bn highlighting the potential for the uptake of mobile broadband services to drive growth. Perhaps, the single most notable feature in the region is the ongoing expansionist activity of some of the Gulf’s largest operators. “We expect to see a healthy M&A climate in 2009 in Africa and Asia as Zain and Etisalat clearly see the current global macroeconomic climate as an opportunity to acquire new assets in high-growth markets,” notes Jotischky.
What of Europe and North America? Less room for optimism surely, but here too, opportunities will present themselves. The report suggests that in markets such as Germany and USA, there is still a mood for service innovation. Those operators that are successful innovators will give themselves a greater opportunity of riding out the storm caused by cuts in consumer spending, intense competition and market saturation. Value-added services that either help make the life of users easier (mobile payment) or more entertaining (music/mobile TV) will still provide opportunities for operators, handset vendors and solutions providers alike.
Informa’s Global Mobile Outlook for 2009 does acknowledge the considerable challenges ahead for the industry, and especially for the vendor community. “The lifeblood of the supplier community is operator capital expenditure, and if we start to see a prolonged trend for cuts in investment plans for 2009 and beyond, this will spell trouble. The handset market will also need to watch very closely the impact of consumer spending cuts and the decreased availability of credit, especially towards the higher-end of the consumer and corporate markets.” Jotischky warns. “A useful barometer for the industry as a whole will be spending on mobile data services – the moment data revenues stagnate is the time to worry, and we have not yet reached this stage.”