The Rise of Telecommunications Services in the Developing World

Telecommunications services have become a ubiquitous presence in our modern times, with cell phones and computers as our main tools for communication. In the United States, Europe, and other developed nations, we seem to take for granted the access we have to these devices and the ease at which we can acquire them. For third world and developing nations, the availability of these services lags behind, which has a palpable effect on their economies and quality of life. Research, however, has indicated that these nations are catching up.

Consider that in 2005, about 2 billion people had a mobile or cellular subscription service. At the end of 2014, 7 billion people had some type of subscription, with 3.6 billion in the Asia/Pacific region alone. In terms of percentages, that is about 96 percent of the world’s population.

When viewed through the lens of developed versus developing nations, research indicates that there are 128 subscriptions per 100 people in developed nations, versus 89 per 100 people in developing countries. While there remains room for expansion in developing nations, the rate of subscription growth has reached its lowest levels in a decade, meaning the market is approaching a saturation point.

Telecommunications services also include access to the Internet, which has a much smaller reach when juxtaposed with cellular services. Three billion people are online, which represents about 40 percent of the world’s population. For developed nations, 78 per 100 people use the Internet, versus 32 per 100 people in developing nations. This is a much bigger gap than the one seen in cell phone usage, indicating these nations still have a long way to go. Of the 1.1 billion households not connected to the Internet, 90 percent are in developing countries.

How can these nations catch up? Luckily, due to the expansion of telecommunications services and companies, broadband prices have dropped significantly over the past decade. In obvious economic terms, the cheaper the product, the wider the accessibility. Africa is notably the farthest behind in terms of broadband connectivity, with the continent accounting for 0.5 percent of the world’s fixed broadband subscriptions.

Telecommunications companies are beginning to enter Africa, as many of its nations are emerging economic markets. With investment from the telecommunications industry, it is more than probable that access to the Internet will gradually climb similarly to that of the cellular market. While it is unlikely that these countries will reach the connectivity of the developed world, the level of infrastructure for communications will improve drastically with outside investments pouring in. Consider the case of Nigeria: about a decade ago, there were 100,000 phone lines, mostly landlines operated by the state-run company NITEL. That company folded, and now there are over 100 million mobile phone lines.

In a world where quick, easy, and mobile communication is the norm, it is important to these nations to reach modern levels of telecommunications. It is hugely significant for their economies and also for simple access to information. The Internet and cellular phones have condensed the size of the world, allowing us the ability to communicate with anyone at any time.

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