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Networking & Communications

How to face the challenges of operating in emerging markets

This is a contributed piece by Ben Elms, EVP for Asia Pacific, Vodafone Global Enterprise

When it comes to global economics, uncertainty is about the only certainty businesses can prepare for. With the China economy facing serious challenges and the European and US economies on the slow road to recovery, multi-nationals need to look to emerging markets for new opportunities. In order to manage the operation successfully, businesses need reliable fixed, mobile and mobility capabilities to empower their people with information and data, improve their operations and deliver the best possible customer experience. Establishing this requisite communications infrastructure can be easier said than done in markets where connected technologies are at different stages of maturity.

Navigating complex infrastructure landscapes

Emerging markets come with their own unique challenges. Take Asia Pacific. The region is made up of more than 40 countries and territories, each with distinct regulatory environments, historical backgrounds and distinct language, political and cultural differences. The technological infrastructure is just as diverse.

Many Asian markets, are seen as being challenged in terms of delivering basic communications. For instance, Myanmar is currently one of the least developed telecoms markets in the region with just 12.3% of the population having access to a basic mobile phone. Most rural areas lack fixed-line services with subscriber penetration at a mere 1%, while mobile services fared noticeably better at 17%. Meanwhile, though 4G/LTE and high-end fibre internet are now available in India, only 19% of the population are connected to the internet, with a modest average access speed of 2Mbps.

Across the region as a whole, coverage is an issue in some of Asia’s least technologically developed markets. As such, it is important for businesses to balance technological infrastructure with potential intermittent power supplies to mitigate network service delivery to customers. Multi-national organisations looking to realise their expansion ambitions need to therefore know how to overcome these infrastructure challenges.

Security risks arising from free UC apps and services

Though some unified communication (UC) apps and services, such as Apple FaceTime and Skype, can provide companies some cost savings over their enterprise equivalents, they are also likely security threats to corporate data and networks. Without full control over the security and compliance policies, these free apps increase risks of cyber-attack or service outage. This in turn exposes organisations to unnecessary vulnerabilities that are not only difficult to manage, but could also compromise critical business operations.   

How to go about establishing consistent communications:

First is to consolidate communications. Entering new markets can easily lead to a tangled web of suppliers, contracts, billing and support, as fixed line, fixed data mobile voice, mobile data and broadband connectivity are established. This becomes even more difficult to manage in markets where regulations, languages and cultures are diverse.  Consolidating communications into one total communications services supplier under one contract and with one master service agreement can help to alleviate the pain of country-by-country negotiation. This provides businesses with a consistent experience and better control of communications costs and security.

Second comes with converge fixed and mobile. When moving into more technically advanced markets with readily available broadband connectivity, fixed-mobile convergence provides businesses with an opportunity to simplify communications and become more responsive by connecting fixed and wireless networks with a single number and voicemail and simple transfers between desk, fixed or mobile devices. This removes the physical constraints of a landline and means savings, convenience and mobility, not to mention improved productivity for the business.

The last is to consider alternatives. In developed markets most communications needs can be met with optical fibre connections or standard 3G and 4G networks. But in developing markets, where infrastructure is lacking and fibre optic connectivity is still in its infancy, satellite can be used as a back-up or temporary fix to support critical infrastructure and services. It is still often the best technology for connecting the most remote or unconnected parts of the globe, both simply and quickly, regardless of its decades-long history.

Seizing the window of opportunity

It’s hard to say for certain what the global economy will look like 20 years from now. Western economies could make a full recovery. Or there could be a global economic power shift that sees the likes of China and India become the most powerful economies in the world. Businesses will need to be ready to adapt to unforeseen markets conditions and need confidence in their ability to establish reliable communications regardless of the market they are operating in. The simplest way to achieve this is to identify a total communications service provider that can negotiate and navigate the regulatory and technological complexities for them. This empowers the business to focus on core competencies, explore revenue opportunities and achieve its ambitions.

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