Growth of mobiles and ICTs in the Asia Pacific region

The UNESCAP 2007 Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific has some interesting figures on the growth of ICTs in general and mobile phone telephony in particular in the region.

Mobile phones per capita

Sri Lanka has more mobile phone subscribers per 100 population than Pakistan and India. Other interesting statistics include:

  • Mobile phone growth is stifling fixed line growth across the region, but particularly in low income countries, SAARC member countries and least developed countries in the region (e.g. 97% of all phones in Cambodia are mobiles)
  • Internet use is growing, though the statistics don’t register wireless broadband internet access (via mobiles).
  • The Maldives, unsurprisingly, has the highest number of cellular subscriber per 100 population with Sri Lanka coming in second in South Asia.
  • SAARC member states and least developed countries show the highest growth for mobile phone subscribers in the Asian and Pacific country / area groupings noted in the report. 

Not sure why in the report Sri Lanka doesn’t register any growth in (wired) broadband subscribers from 2004 – 2006, though it does show an increase in the number of Internet users. I thought SLT alone would have given out a fair number of ADSL subscriptions over the past two years.

It will be interesting to see the data that comes in for 2007 / 2008 on how the introduction and growing usage of wireless broadband connectivity (3G and WiMax) over mobiles and PCs impacts these figures.

For me, these stats are vital determinants in favour of strengthening and promoting citizen journalism and user generated content in the region.

Dialog: Listening to customers?

I first expressed reservations about Dialog’s recently introduced WiMax service on Lirneasia’s blog, which has some interesting responses after my comment that call in general for a more rigorous study of the Quality of Service of “broadband” service providers in Sri Lanka (that I seem to recall Lirneasia was interested in doing, though I may be wrong).

Later, I wrote a post based on a letter I wrote to Dialog that brought out in detail the gross disconnect between what was then promised in the media blitz surrounding their WiMax campaign and what I many others, it turns out, experienced in areas that were ostensibly “covered”.

I’m happy to note that as of this week, the ads I’ve seen on Wimax (in the Daily Mirror) have added a new line that clearly indicates that connectivity is subject to site tests even in areas that are “covered”. As I wrote to Dialog’s Head of Marketing via SMS:

Note with appreciation the caveat introduced in the wimax ads now, that access is subject to testing in each location. I think this is honest and instructive and only wish you had gone with this in the first instance. Thank you and best, Sanjana”

to which his response was:

“Thanks. As I said before we are an organization who listens to the pulse of the customers as much as we can. We always appreciate honest and direct feedback. Thank you once again.”

Though I am STILL waiting to be blown away by Dialog’s Wimax speeds, it’s heartening to note that someone listens to feedback at Dialog.

Dialog’s customer support, however, is another story and perhaps warrants another post (though I’m waiting to see if anything improves as a result of a letter I sent to them before going public). But a heads up to anyone from Dialog who reads this – your stock email response, which is rather inane because it is sent out unthinkingly by customer service reps irrespective of the precise nature of the issue brought to their notice, is not just factually incorrect (as was the case with the response I got) but also grammatically incorrect.

And I for one think it’s rather perverse to actually be charged for a phone call made to a service centre.

Clearly, exponential growth in market share has its own trappings.

Dialog Wimax advertisements vs. reality

The following is the text of an email sent to Dialog today on what I see as a misleading marketing campaign made worse by customer service staff who themselves know not exactly what is going on.

This is an issue I first flagged on Lirneasia’s blog.

Dear Sir / Madam,

I wish to lodge an official complaint against misleading Dialog Broadband advertisements as they have appeared recently in the print media. The advertisements claim that Nugegoda, which falls under the Colombo Metro area, is “covered”. An example of such an advertisement can be found in The Sunday Times of 11th November 2007 on page 9.

However, I live in Nugegoda and two technical teams from Dialog who have visited me over the past fortnight have not even managed to get a signal from your transponder in Nugegoda. In fact, the customer service representative I was in touch with (Zubair) himself did not know that coverage was limited and was as surprised as I was to find out this when told by the technical team that visited my residence in the first instance.

To register my disappointment at the discrepancy between what is promised in the media and what is actually available from Dialog Broadband today, I spoke with customer service representative Pradeep Balachandran on 0117 400 400 at 8.30am today (11th Nov. 2007) who informed me that:

a) Coverage in Nugegoda was limited to a 3km radius. When asked what the exact footprint was, he said he did not know where the Wimax transmission tower was located.
b) When I asked to lodge a complaint regarding an advertisement that was misleading the public, he said that I could not. Dialog, he said, defined coverage / “covered” as the 3km radius in Nugegoda (when pressed again, he said he did not know exactly what area this was and how reliable services were).
c) He had no idea when coverage would be extended

Coverage that covers only a 3km radius, of which the exact footprint is unknown even to Dialog Broadband customer service representatives, runs contrary to the impression given in the advertisements that make no mention of limited coverage of any other limiting technical factors that impede signals in the areas mentioned and promise immediate connectivity.

In fact, this is a clear misrepresentation of service availability and by extension an example of a marketing campaign that is at best grossly misleading.

Given an admiration of Dialog in general and as a long standing customer of and advocate for your mobile voice and data services, I find this extremely disappointing and contrary to the Dialog’s avowed values of professionalism and customer care.

Best regards,

Sanjana

Wimax in Africa

WiMax and other wireless, large footprint, broadband internet access technologies interest me for one very simple reason.

Resilience.

Telecoms infrastructure (towers, switches, cables, microwave and transmission equipment) are about the first things to be attacked, pilfered or sabotaged in areas of violent conflict. Broadband internet and web access through ether offers communities living in the throes of violence a chance, through PC’s, mobile devices and other wireless capable devices to access and more importantly, contribute content to the internet and web.

Now an ITU standard, WiMax isn’t the only large footprint broadband communication technology out there, but it’s certainly got a boost in terms of UN backing. Intel, which lobbied hard for this, has lost no time in touting the technology’s potential to connect millions across Africa (that favourite destination of  corporate America’s social conscience):

Africa needs to embrace wireless broadband as a potential solution to the digital divide, the chairman of Intel Craig Barrett has said. It’s cheaper, easier and more efficient to communicate wirelessly,” he told the BBC News website. Less than 1% of Africans have access to broadband and only 4% use the net. The International Telecommunications Union has predicted that the Intel-backed Wimax system could become the dominant mobile standard in Africa. The continent’s geography and political barriers have made it difficult to roll out wired broadband.

Read the article in full on the BBC website here.

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