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January 03, 2012

Fundamental Regulatory Reform of Communications: When Will the Next Great Moment Arrive?

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor
Hindsight, as they say, is “20/20.” One frequently can look backwards and see how difficult it is to “predict the future” where it comes to communications on a global level.

In 2004, for example, the International Telecommunications Union still was saying that, “In general, the majority of the least developed countries (LDCs) have made little progress in the past five years in closing the gap in access to basic telecommunication services. In some cases, teledensity (the number of telephone lines per 100 people) has fallen, as population growth has outstripped telecommunication growth.”

In 2011, the ITU reported that “mobile cellular penetration in the developing world reached 70 percent at the end of 2010, just six years after reaching 70 percent in the developed world.”

In 2010, mobile cellular penetration in Africa which is at 45.2 percent was higher than mobile cellular penetration in the Americas in 2004, which was 42.8 percent. Meanwhile, the ITU said, mobile penetration in the Americas had grown to 94.5 percent by 2010. 

It would be fair to say that was a largely unexpected development. Where for many decades policymakers had worried about how to “increase tele-density” in developing regions, mobile adoption simply has answered the question in less than a decade.

In hindsight, it was not a “bad” question to ask how the world was going to provide communications to most people in the world, at prices they could afford. What arguably has not been done so well is all the money the global industry and policy establishment has, essentially, wasted in discussions about how to increase tele-density at all.

As it turns out, not only has mobile service dramatically proven it is the answer to the question, but the pressing questions now have turned elsewhere, namely to the question of how to supply Internet access, and broadband, to most people. One wonders whether the “answer” to such questions has not, in essence, already been provided.


Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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