“In developed nations like the United States
or the United Kingdom, there are already
established players who can roll out their own
4G networks. But in places like Russia or
Malaysia, it’s still a land grab,” Dr. Marshall
explains. “It gives new broadband providers a
chance to scale up.”
Getting construction permission for antenna
sites in Africa is simple compared to developed
markets like the United Kingdom, where the
process is complex and fraught with red tape,
Mr. Bar-Gera contends.
Even with the infrastructure in place,
securing financing can be a big hurdle. “These
kinds of projects have high startup costs and
high recurrent fixed costs, and you need a lot
of money to achieve profitability and even
more economies of scale,” he says. “A lot of
players go after broadband projects but under-
estimate the delays in funding, and the proj-
He likens it to building a railroad that only
reaches the next town.
The instability of the electrical power network in developing nations also often adds
time and upgrade costs to project plans. Uplink
availability—linking the local network to the
Internet—is also very limited and very expensive in emerging markets, Mr. Bar-Gera says.
“Prices can easily exceed $1,000 per megabit,
compared with advanced markets, where the
same connection costs only a few U.S. dollars.”
And project schedules don’t always work like
they do in developed
>> THE NEED FOR SPEED
More-established economies won’t be left in the 4G dust. Competing carriers in the United States,
for example, are scrambling to roll out faster networks to accommodate data-heavy apps, games
and video tools that consumers want on their phones.
Mobile service giant Verizon Wireless recently made a major splash with its plans to roll out a 4G
network in 38 U.S. cities before the end of 2010.
At the recent 4G World conference, Clearwire chief commercial officer Mike Sievert envisioned
download speeds 10 times faster than they are today. The company’s tests have produced download
speeds of more than 90 mbps (megabits per second) and upload speeds of more than 30 mbps,
according to a report in PCWorld.