Emerging markets set for data boom

David King
15 Aug 2013

Emerging countries have always had myriad challenges for mobile operators and other telecom companies to overcome. These include the lack of or substandard infrastructure, political uncertainty, regulatory issues, challenging environments, vast and sparsely populated geographical areas to cover, unreliable energy supplies, and poorer target groups.

These challenges have been overcome with ingenuity and perseverance. In many countries, prepaid cards in small denominations sold in numerous mobile booths have given consumers with little money access to mobile telephony.

Off-grid base stations in Asia, the Middle East and Africa are increasingly using green power solutions that almost completely replace the use of dirty and expensive diesel. In East Africa, M-PESA and other mobile money systems have revolutionized the way money is transferred, making it possible for almost everybody to use basic banking services.

So when developing countries take the next big step into the “post-mobile data revolution,” there are of course going to be a number of challenges to overcome. The penetration of data in many of these markets is still low and prices are still high.

And even if everybody agrees that data will take off in a big way, it is difficult to predict when it will happen and how fast. Can you best prepare to quickly respond to the anticipated demand without investing too much too early?

The biggest challenge is infrastructure, where high-quality, efficient data centers are essential. They house and power all the equipment needed for transmission of data and are both the heart and brain of any network. But traditional builds for data centers take a lot of time to plan, co-ordinate (with different suppliers) and construct.

Furthermore, challenging environments add a lot of risk to a data center project, often resulting in delays and budget overruns. Buildings for data centers are usually not purpose-built to be used as technical facilities -- often with water leaks and other problems -- as well as being over-sized since they cannot be expanded quickly and easily.

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