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March 10, 2005
Where EDGE Cellular Makes Sense
The cellular technology called EDGE doesn't make sense for the U.S.
It's not that fast. It costs real money. By the time a carrier installs EDGE his competitor may have true 3G available, and now you've spent your budget but lost the market.
But in the developing world, in places like Africa (the future users pictured here live in Benin), EDGE may make perfect sense. Stuff of New Zealand offers some glimpses of it today.
Consider the fact that most Africans may never have PCs and Internet connections. If they have access to the Internet at all, it's through an Internet cafe. It's a fixed location way to move money, and to communicate via voice or text.
But mobile phones are another matter. (This Nigerian street scene is from a BBC story on the growth of mobiles there.) Mobile phones are becoming affordable to the African masses. Right now there's a big opportunity in selling calls through mobile lines, but that's a transitory thing. With one-chip phones, with contract-free access, most African villages will be connected to the world for the first time, and very soon.
While EDGE costs money to implement, it doesn't require the building of new base stations. While EDGE requires the purchase of new phones, these phones need not be terribly expensive.
More important you have a host of small entrepreneurs throughout Africa who are going to be losing their current opportunity, as phone prices and plans continue to go down in price.
So the village mobile, the one you rent, is going to have a screen, and an entrepreneur controlling it motivated to find valuable services he or she can re-sell off that screen.
And that's how the broadband Internet will reach the remotest villages of the world, perhaps faster than we think.
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