Mobile connections: the threats behind the impressive stats

Interesting news that connected devices in the world now number higher than the population of the planet – the source of which appears to be somewhere around here.

Self-evidently, this is not the same as saying that everyone in the world has a phone – the number of westerners with a multiplicity of devices, providing density figures much in excess of 100%, provides enough of an expanding market to account for by the majority of connected people. Nevertheless, there is an interesting, if obvious, comment to make on the state of international development and solidarity when the number of people without access to safe, clean water and basic sanitation still lies in the billions while those in developed countries have access to not just one, but two, three, four or more connected devices.

Apart from that, it is the growth in mobile which has been so impressive – around 2001, as the chart in this article shows very well, the number of mobile connections globally was around the same as the number of fixed line ones (despite a history of just ten years at that point), but, in the ten years since then, the phenomenal growth rate has seen the number of mobile connections reach a figure around five times that of fixed ones. Indeed, by 2015, there are predictions that the number of connected devices will be twice that of the world’s population as near as 2015, while Ericsson has been predicting 50bn connections by 2020 for at least the last two years.

Impressive growth rates, for sure (if indeed achievable), but, as I argued below, growth as a goal is problematic and, in this context, I also note that Juniper Research has also this week produced another of its warnings that mobile costs may well exceed revenues within four years. Additionally, Nokia is also reporting difficulties arising not least from lower device selling prices as network operators start to drive prices down – a factor which will become more apparent should the France Telecom-Deutsche Telekom procurement link-up be successful – while other handset makers are also feeling the pinch. Counteracting the problems facing mobile companies, at a time of a need for the inevitable increased expansion of investment to deal with the implications for network capacity of such a high number of mobile connections, to say nothing of financially struggling countries looking to spectrum auctions as a source of cheap state finance (which themselves carry evident dangers), is a question that will heavily occupy not only mobile operators and their workers, but also regulators and policy-makers, over the next few years.

ODA money spent in Britain

The Commons International Development select committee today questioned why £1.85m was taken from DFID funds to cover some of the £10m costs of the Pope’s visit to Britain back in September last year. The money was handed to the Foreign Office, and the Committee has asked for answers as to what the money was spent on and why it was imagined that this was compliant with the rules on overseas development aid.

DFID has pointed out that the money is separate to the overseas aid budget – so will have come from departmental running costs, i.e. the bits of DFID that is not ring-fenced from the cuts. (Although it is interesting that Harriet Harman has warned today that the government’s ‘fragile’ commitment to spending 0.7% of GNP on overseas aid by 2013 means it may not be realised.)

Perhaps the comment by a member of the Pope’s entourage that arriving in Britain was like landing in a third world country led to DFID being caught up by this view and thinking that the spending of the money in this country was legitimate …