Posted in | 20 January, 2020

Why connection is key for the next billion mobile subscribers

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710 million new mobile subscribers will be online by 2025

Every day more than one million people sign up for mobile broadband for the first time. Since 2013, more than one billion new mobile internet users have come online. By 2025, 5.8 billion individuals will be online and many will exclusively use their mobile devices to access the internet.

And what are these millions of new subscribers going to be doing on their mobile devices? The answer is simple: connecting.

The universal need to play and connect

Digital anthropologist Payal Arora, author of The Next Billion Users: Digital Life Beyond the West, reveals that people’s needs and motivations across the world are very similar, regardless of their economic status. They want to be entertained, watch funny videos, chat with friends, find romance and play games.

Just seven countries – India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, USA and Brazil –  are expected to account for half of all new mobile internet users in the future. In total, 50% of users will come from the Asia-Pacific region and just under 25% from Sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria, Ethiopia, DRC, Tanzania and Kenya are set to be the main centres of subscriber growth in Africa.

In an interview with The Boston Globe, Arora says that her field research in countries like Brazil and South Africa confirms that online behaviour in these countries is the same, “Every single time when I’ve gone into the field, the majority of what [real people] do has been leisure-oriented. It is all about entertainment, romance, gaming, chatting.”

Why sending airtime to family and friends abroad is on the rise

For the 250 million migrant workers living outside their home country, international airtime and data transfers to their loved ones back home are growing. Beyond the universal need for entertainment, users across the globe are using their mobile devices as tools for accessing information, education, buying goods, online banking and as a source of information to improve health. Telecoms operators like DTAC in Thailand, who use DT One’s technology platform, make it possible for people to buy airtime or data for family and friends from anywhere in the world and send it back instantly.

What airtime and data transfers enable is a fundamental human need: connection. For the father living in the Middle East, sending airtime to his son at university in the Philippines means daily WhatsApp voice chats. For the mother working in the United States, it means the ability to send pictures of the grand kids to her parents in Thailand, and it also means that they can stay connected to their social networks, games and favourite series.

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