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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 08:16 GMT 09:16 UK
Mobiles to leapfrog into the future
Chinese boy using mobile
A new generation is growing up with mobiles
Developing countries are taking up next generation technologies such as mobile phones to leapfrog into the future, as BBC World ClickOnline's David Jamieson reports.
One of the things helping developing countries to rapidly close the communications gap with the West is the mobile phone.

It has become an essential, or annoying, part of modern life, depending on your point of view. In parts of the developing world, they are catching on like wildfire.


This project, from conception to launch here in Kabul, took three months

Greg Grant, AWCC
Wireless technologies like this offer a quick and cheap way to leapfrog the messy and expensive business of building physical telephone networks.

In Afghanistan, the country's landline network has been torn to bits by 20 years of war. What is left is out of date.

Quick and easy

To put new wires in the ground would take decades and be prohibitively expensive.

Instead installing a modern mobile phone network is cheaper, quicker and easier.

"This project, from conception to launch here in Kabul, took three months," said Greg Grant, senior engineer with the Afghan Wireless Communication Company.

From having hardly any phones, suddenly those Afghanis who can afford it are using one of the latest western communications devices.

When the mobiles first went on sale earlier in the year, nearly 400 people have shelled out the $350 for a handset in the first few days.

Mobile market

It is a pattern being repeated elsewhere in the developing world. Wireless communications networks are rapidly spreading where hardwired networks have been slow to grow.

In China, mobile phone usage is exploding. If this trend continues, by this time next year the number of people with access to a mobile phone will actually exceed the number of people who have fixed line phones.


They've become big users of mobile technology because it's much less expensive to put that technology in

Bob Hayward, Gartner
Currently about a 192 million Chinese have a landline, but mobiles are close behind.

There are 167 million Chinese users, making it the biggest mobile market on earth.

Some telecommunications analysts think mobile usage there could spread right out into the poorer rural areas of China, where the majority of the population live.

These are places that have never even seen a landline.

"There's a long way to go before China wires up some of the remote regional communities," explained Bob Hayward, of analyst firm Gartner.

"Even some of the reasonably large cities of up to a million people are not very well configured with infrastructure today.

"They've become big users of mobile technology because it's much less expensive to put that technology in," he said.

"They're leapfrogging the whole wired phenomenon."

It means that parts of the developing world could eventually leapfrog straight to wireless internet, without ever having seen a landline.


ClickOnline is broadcast on BBC World at various times across the globe.
See also:

10 Sep 02 | Business
19 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
16 Jul 01 | Science/Nature
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