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Bringing Cell Phones To the Third World

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the strength-through-communication dept.

Cellphones 116

An anonymous reader tips a story about Denis O'Brien, a mobile phone entrepreneur whose goal is to spread cell phones throughout third-world countries. Quoting: "...O'Brien keeps pouring money into the world's poorest, most violent countries. His bet: Give phones to the masses and they'll fight your enemies for you. ...In Trinidad & Tobago, where the state mobile phone firm was dragging its feet on connecting Digicel calls to its own customers, O'Brien harangued government officials to speed things up, even phoning one Christmas night to complain. After the launch the state firm started dropping Digicel calls anyway, making its new competitor look bad. O'Brien took his case to the people, taking out ads in T&T's papers listing life 'Before Digicel' and 'After Digicel' and held a press conference. The state firm eventually relented. In its first four months Digicel bagged 600,000 customers and is narrowing the gap now with the state in market share."

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That's what they need (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24717669)

Cause that's what they need...cell phones. Nevermind the maniacs running those countries...

Re:That's what they need (3, Interesting)

mcvos (645701) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717695)

Cause that's what they need...cell phones. Nevermind the maniacs running those countries...

Good communication can help struggling economies a lot. I'm not familiar with Trinidad & Tobego, but in Africa, cell phones are quite popular.

Re:That's what they need (5, Informative)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717859)

Good communication can help struggling economies a lot.

I think we often see these things as a modern luxury and forget the actual utility they can provide.

I remember an example given by Muhammad Yunus in Banker to the Poor [amazon.com] where a woman used to waste a day walking to the next village to pick up some raw materials, only to find out when she got there that they weren't ready yet. A whole days productivity wasted because she had no way of knowing without actually going to check. A cell phone (shared by the village) changed that.

Re:That's what they need (3, Interesting)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718107)

Or farmers can call a couple of different markets to see what price their crops will fetch instead of just picking one and hope it works out...

There was a post here in a similar discussion a few months back, some guy who had lived in the 3rd world in the Peace Corps gave a few reasons he'd rather have a cell phone than running water.

Re:That's what they need (-1, Troll)

Stellian (673475) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718143)

I think we often see these things as a modern luxury and forget the actual utility they can provide.

Let's not forget how adequate a cell phone is as a status symbol: a small, expensive toy that is paraded in public view during normal use.
Cells stopped fulfilling the status-symbol role in the western world (for the most part *), which returned to more traditional things like jeweleries and sport cars.
But in a country where the poor people live on a few dollars a month, a 50$ toy is an excellent status symbol.

*) You know what I'm iTalking iAbout iHere.

Re:That's what they need (1)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722963)

Why not use two-way radios?

Re:That's what they need (3, Insightful)

zeromorph (1009305) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717915)

Yes, in Africa and large parts of Asian mobile phone networks are not only popular, they are frequently more widespread than the good ol' telephonbe net. It is apparently easier to cover a remote area with a GSM infrastructure and to maintain the facilities than with telephone cables.

I know several remote villages in India, were you can make a mobile phone call (at least after climbing on a small hill), but the villages have neither phone connections nor electricity nor sanitary equipment.

Re:That's what they need (3, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 6 years ago | (#24719237)

One of the problems in developing countries is copper theft - if you have a guy rolling out a drum of telephone cable then a mile down the road there's another guy rolling it right back up. Cell towers tend to be extremely well fixed down and have big scary fences and stuff around them. They don't get stolen. Copper wire does.

Re:That's what they need (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24719279)

Don't be racist, jerk/douche.

Re:That's what they need (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721593)

Hey man - what's up with the racism? I've been following your posting history for a number years and have always considered myself a fan of you but this...this just doesn't sit well.

What's gotten into you?

sincerely,
Jiggle Fuck

Re:That's what they need (0)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721875)

That's two people - yourself and an AC - that have claimed I am being racist here. What's racist about it?

Re:That's what they need (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24723647)

The fact that you didn't deny it whatsoever tells me all I need to know about you. You're a fucking racist!

sincerely,
General Douche

Re:That's what they need (1)

the_womble (580291) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717925)

But why pick on one company as though it is something special?

OK, this guy is more aggressive in expanding and in taking on incumbent operators, and he is more focused on small markets. That is all really forced on him by being smaller than the big operators (so he cannot go in to big markets, which would mean higher capex and competing head on with the big boys). Those smaller markets are less competitive and require different tactics.

Re:That's what they need (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718187)

But why pick on one company as though it is something special?

The article is binspam. An advertisement. I'm surprised the editors didn't notice. Overwhelmed by the glittery "high tech", I guess.

Re:That's what they need (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24720231)

This guy went in where others did not dare...
That is the difference. Sticking your neck out when you could settle for a comfy life.
That is special.
The "Big ones" did not bother with crushing the competition.

Re:That's what they need (2, Informative)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718007)

One guy I know immigrated to the US from South Africa. He was shocked that cell phones were seen as a luxury in the US. The reason, he discovered, was that in the US, the land line telephone system in the US works for 99.999% (or something like that) of the time. Where as, in South Africa, the odds were that the land line was not working. Cell phones were the only reliable form of communication.

Re:That's what they need (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 6 years ago | (#24719271)

*I* was shocked to discover that cell phones were seen as a luxury in the US, and I come from the UK! I'm about the only person I know younger than retirement age that has a landline phone (not that it's used very often) that *isn't* just there because you get it free with ADSL. That said, I have a working PDP11/73 and my daily driver is a 1981 Citroen CX - I thrive on anachronism.

Re:That's what they need (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 6 years ago | (#24719329)

A question for you, then my anecdote. How was the reliability of the land-line phone system in the UK compared to the US?

I'm under 30, and I keep a land line around, as well as the cell phone. The main reason is that to date, the land line has always been available, especially when the power is out. I don't have long distance on the land line (that is what the cell phone is for), but I keep it around basically for emergencies. It's one reason I dislike the Vonage VoIP commercials. I don't think people realize how good of a phone system AT&T built. If the power goes out, I'll lose VoIP and internet but I'll still be able to use my land line. I also have an early '80s phone that has Ma Bell stamped on the bottom of it, so it doesn't have a problem with no electricity, so long as the phone lines work.

Re:That's what they need (2, Informative)

nogginthenog (582552) | more than 6 years ago | (#24719955)

Landlines are extremely reliable in the UK and most of Europe.
Pretty much everyone in Europe has a mobile (cell) phone. My 65+ year old parents both own one. I think a big difference is that you don't pay to receive calls. You can buy a cheap ($30?) phone on a pre-pay tariff and it costs you almost nothing to run as long as you don't make too many calls.

Re:That's what they need (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721055)

How does the cost of the cell phone compare to land line? For 'long distance' that is, compared to the phone.

Slight backtrack. Where the cell phone 'used' to be considered a luxury, it is now a common place item or necessity. Times are changing, as the cost has come down.

Re:That's what they need (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721453)

How does the cost of the cell phone compare to land line? For 'long distance' that is, compared to the phone.

My cellphone subscription is cheaper than my landline subscription, but I do pay a lot more for international calls, unfortunately. More expensive subscriptions may make international calls closer to the price of land lines.

Ofcourse if you want cheap international calls, VoIP is the way to go.

Slight backtrack. Where the cell phone 'used' to be considered a luxury, it is now a common place item or necessity. Times are changing, as the cost has come down.

Nowadays it's the landline that's a luxury.

Re:That's what they need (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721961)

My cellphone subscription is cheaper than my landline subscription, but I do pay a lot more for international calls, unfortunately. More expensive subscriptions may make international calls closer to the price of land lines.

Makes me wonder if part of the reason Cell Phones aren't dominant in the US is that most people have no need to call international then.

Nowadays it's the landline that's a luxury.

Scary, but true.

Re:That's what they need (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722303)

My cellphone subscription is cheaper than my landline subscription, but I do pay a lot more for international calls, unfortunately. More expensive subscriptions may make international calls closer to the price of land lines.

Makes me wonder if part of the reason Cell Phones aren't dominant in the US is that most people have no need to call international then.

I realise I didn't express myself clearly. It's the cellphone where my international calls are more expensive. But that's partly because I have an extremely cheap cellphone subscription.

International calls on land lines are so cheap these days that I don't think cell phones will ever be cheaper. On the other hand, on international cellphone networks I'd expect the real costs for an international call are hardly more expensive than for a local one.

Re:That's what they need (1)

raju1kabir (251972) | more than 6 years ago | (#24724603)

My cellphone subscription is cheaper than my landline subscription, but I do pay a lot more for international calls, unfortunately. More expensive subscriptions may make international calls closer to the price of land lines.

That's not necessarily the case, though. I use the cheapest of the cheap prepaid mobile services here, and international calls are so cheap [digi.com.my] (US$1 = RM3.2) I often make them on the mobile phone instead of using a free VoIP service at home.

Re:That's what they need (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721963)

It's about the same as a mobile. I've never experienced any serious problems with my landline, except when the whole of Virgin Media services were down for about a day. Lightning whacked their local Head End, so I'm going to call that pretty much excusable.

If there's a power failure, the mobile phone masts (at least, the larger ones) have about as much standby time on battery as a telephone exchange, and most of the major sites have little diesel gennies as well. Out in the sticks, where there's often no mains power, the cell towers run on diesel gennies anyway.

Re:That's what they need (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 6 years ago | (#24720183)

That's mainly because the North American phone monopolies were very good at getting new service connected up within a few days. I've heard stories from friends in England during the 80s that it could take 2 weeks for BT to get you a landline, often times longer in France. AT&T/Bell would have one up in 3-5 days. Is it any wonder mobile adoption took off in Europe?!

Re:That's what they need (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721919)

I've heard stories from friends in England during the 80s that it could take 2 weeks for BT to get you a landline

In a very remote part of Scotland it took us two weeks to get a landline, but that's because they had to actually lay the last mile - there was no copper to the house. A friend of mine has just had his BT line reconnected so he can get ADSL - three days, mostly because the exchange is being worked on right now and they don't want to mess about with the MDF while other people are working on it.

Re:That's what they need (4, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717811)

Cause that's what they need...cell phones. Nevermind the maniacs running those countries...

The fact that cells are routinely disabled [schneier.com] in areas where heads of state make public appearances is evidence that enabling communication between regular people is a threat to the people who run/own a country.

Re:That's what they need (2, Interesting)

Geminii (954348) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718637)

Point. It'd be better to distribute a means of communication which didn't rely on easily-disabled infrastructure. Even making every cellphone a satellite uplink just means that the ability to disable/filter/edit calls has been handed to whoever owns the satellites. Now if they used some kind of long-distance point-to-point grid networking...

Lethal Phones? (5, Funny)

bigtallmofo (695287) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717671)

His bet: Give phones to the masses and they'll fight your enemies for you

I'm not sure I understand this. Do these phones shoot lasers or something?

Re:Lethal Phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24717679)

They shoot sharks instead.

Re:Lethal Phones? (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717835)

Sharks are the enemies?

Re:Lethal Phones? (1)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717699)

The pen^h^h^hphone is mightier than the sword^wgun.

Re:Lethal Phones? (1)

Incster (1002638) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718781)

Lasers? Now cell phones have lasers? I just want a phone that makes phone calls.

Lethal Explosions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24719825)

"I'm not sure I understand this. Do these phones shoot lasers or something?"

No. Just exploding batteries.

Re:Lethal Phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24720079)

It is the Libertarian approach - Side with the masses against the free market stifling bourgeois pigs :-) - Dirt cheap phone connections are worth fighting for - They improve life and standard of living - Long live the free market

Re:Lethal Phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24724411)

Nah, they just explode!

Re:Lethal Phones? (1)

raju1kabir (251972) | more than 6 years ago | (#24724535)

Read the article. When governments tried to shut him down, the phone-toting masses defended him.

The agenda (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24717673)

So the de-population plan needs more help in the third world. Silent weapons for quite wars.

Denis O'Brien (1)

CockMonster (886033) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717705)

If you don't like Michael O'Leary you definitely won't like O'Brien

Interesting. (5, Interesting)

BitterOldGUy (1330491) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717729)

The Caribbean operations backing his bonds just announced US$505 million in operating profit (earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation), double the year-earlier figure, on US$1.6 billion in revenue for the year ended in March.

And if you subtract the interest, is the company still making a profit? Red flag: mentioning Operating profit as opposed to profit.

Another red flag: In April O'Brien was in the midst of a five-day, four-country visit (via his Gulfstream G550) to keep tabs on his assets.

Interesting. A private jet.

He's in poverty stricken countries. He's grabbing lots of market share as fast as he can with dubious earnings potential (what? will he take a chicken as payment if these poverty stricken folks can't pay?). He's doing all of this with other people's money.

Does that sound like another business plan we've heard of? Maybe 7 or 8 years ago?

Re:Interesting. (3, Funny)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717787)

He's doing all of this with other people's money.

Does that sound like another business plan we've heard of? Maybe 7 or 8 years ago?

7 or 8 years ago? The US Federal Reserve has been around a lot longer than that, I think.

Re:Interesting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24717797)

Sounds like cable companies here in the UK, who haven't turned an actual profit since they were created decades ago. It's nothing new.

"Pouring money"? (3, Informative)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717737)

The summary makes it out as though he's some kind of philanthropist giving away free phones because of some kind of altruistic motive. But from the article we see:

"O'Brien has built a US$2.2-billion personal fortune by dominating the mobile business in a dozen poverty-stricken countries (in all, he's in 27 countries and territories)".

So we have another non-story. The story could be called "Someone else making billions of dollars by tapping into new markets". Even without getting into lengthy debates about the nature and ethics surrounding the modern economic system, it's really drawing a long bow trying to portray this guy as a defender of the third world. Not only because he's only giving them cell phones for god's sake, not like it's medicine or anything, but he's making billions of dollars out of it as well.

Re:"Pouring money"? (1, Interesting)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717807)

Mods: This is not a troll.

I fully agree that there should be no positive light cast on people who are, in the process of filling their own pockets, incidentally trickling benefits down to the people below them.

Brownie points should be given to people who actively try to help others, and perhaps bring themselves a benefit as a side effect. Those are the people who won't turn around and screw the third world the moment it is deemed more profitable.

*cough*
Nike.
*cough*

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

ChienAndalu (1293930) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717817)

We absolutely should get into lengthy debates about "the nature and ethics surrounding the modern economic system". The fact that he makes money out of it tells you that people want the phones, and he is successful in delivering them. And yes, people need medicine, but infrastructure is also extremely important, like, you know, phones, so you can talk to somebody who is somewhere else.

Re:"Pouring money"? (0)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717869)

We absolutely should get into lengthy debates about "the nature and ethics surrounding the modern economic system".

Meh, you started it.

The fact that he makes money out of it tells you that people want the phones

Wrong. Generating revenue (The income) tells you that people want the phones. Generating profit (Revenue - cost) tells you that he's either underpaying his employees or overcharging his customers, or both. That's where "profit" comes from. It's not some magical formula that's so hard to understand and explain. You pay $20 to make something, you sell it for $30. You've just made money from nothing. Good job, you win capitalism.

When we're talking about the third world and when we're putting up articles because we think that the person in question is doing something noble (Seriously, if that's not the suggestion wtf is the point of this story?) I think we can expect that he at least pays his workers properly or that he doesn't gouge his customers who live in poverty stricken countries.

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717919)

If all of the alternatives are $40, where's the problem with charging $30?

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717961)

I don't see the logic in "If they're doing, I may as well do it as well". Mind you, selling a product for $30 doesn't necessarily mean your margins are smaller. You could just be paying employees less. The "problem", when it comes to the developing world and selling to them, in my opinion, is not with the relative profit margins but with the idea of profit in general.

Re:"Pouring money"? (3, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718017)

You misunderstand. If it takes a person in the developing world, say, 1 day, to harvest their field by hand, and somebody goes around charging them, say, the equivalent of 1/2 days labor to do it with a machine that he has, and it costs him, say, the equivalent of 1/10 of a days labor, where's the problem? He is making a horrible, vicious profit of 2/5 days labor on every field, and the worker is making a horrible, vicious profit of 1/2 days labor.

Profit does not always imply that something hinky is going on. Sure, some of the time it does, but some of the time it just means that somebody has a better way of doing things. Rewarding people for having better ways of doing things is not a bad thing from where I sit.

Re:"Pouring money"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24720469)

Do you not see Comrade, that the very act of "ownership" of the tractor or combine harvester is evil and bourgeois? If the people were forced to share their mechanical machines the grain could be harvested for everyone in twice the time, and the proletariat would benefit gloriously! With the time saved harvesting the grain, the workers can build even more and better tractors for the peoples republic!

Note for the humour impaired: this is a joke.

Re:"Pouring money"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24718287)

>> but with the idea of profit in general.

Oh, I can just sense that this will be an educational and mutually respectful online discussion.

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718329)

You do understand that I'm talking specifically about developing nations, making $2 billion in profit and then being portrayed as an altruist?

Re:"Pouring money"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24718423)

That was not clear.

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

ChienAndalu (1293930) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717973)

Wrong. Generating revenue (The income) tells you that people want the phones. Generating profit (Revenue - cost) tells you that he's either underpaying his employees or overcharging his customers, or both.

[citation needed]
Have you asked the people who actually work for him or who bought a phone? My bet is that they actually like having work and having a phone. As it is written in TFA.

That's where "profit" comes from. It's not some magical formula that's so hard to understand and explain. You pay $20 to make something, you sell it for $30. You've just made money from nothing. Good job, you win capitalism.

Not everybody has the skill to raise the value of a product from $20 to $30 dollar. He has this skill. He earns the difference. That's how you and I make money and survive after all.
Of course you will say that nobody "needs" 2 Billion, but I doubt he sits at home, bathing in bills and eating caviar. He has a company to run after all.

Re:"Pouring money"? (2, Informative)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717997)

Wow so we have someone who clearly missed Economics 101. You need a citation required to show that profit is cost subtracted from revenue? And you think it takes some kind of inherent "skill" to raise the price by a certain percentage? There's some people you can't convince, and I'm not even going to try.

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

ChienAndalu (1293930) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718023)

And you think it takes some kind of inherent "skill" to raise the price by a certain percentage?

...and sell the item.
If there isn't a skill involved, how come that you aren't a billionaire already?

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718241)

I think it'd be pretty ironic if someone with my perspective on the world and the dominant economic system turned into a venture capitalist...

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718265)

When you buy a loaf of bread, do you pay the store the posted price, or do you pay the store what the loaf of bread is worth to you? If you pay the posted price, it is likely that you are making a profit on the transaction (or perhaps you manage to grow and process all of your own food...).

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718345)

Er, what? Seriously, I don't mean to sound offensive but you really seem to have a lack of understanding of basic, basic economics. When I buy bread I don't make a profit. The shop I buy it from makes a profit and the wholesaler makes a profit. The guy making the bread and the customer are the ones losing out. If you take out the 10% profit cut from the wholesaler and the retailer, you either get the bread maker getting paid the same and the customer getting his bread cheaper, the maker getting paid more and the customer paying the same or somewhere in the middle.

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718373)

I consider consumer surplus to be profit just as much as I consider producer surplus to be profit.

Buying bread from the store makes most people better off than they otherwise would be (they save time or are able to better use their time, allowing them to become better off, etc.).

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 6 years ago | (#24719971)

maxume is correct about the customer making a profit, as long as the price of the bread could be made by them in another trade faster than it would take them to make that bread.

However the grocery store does not always profit from selling the loaf of bread. This is something you learn in Marketing 101, or having a ton of family members working in all departments of grocery stores.
There are times that you are actually buying things for LESS than it costs the grocer to get them. This is done to draw people into the store. They make the loss up on other products that you have a high probability of purchasing while you're there.

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 6 years ago | (#24719991)

By the way, gas stations do the same thing.
Even though you're paying $4.009 for a gallon of gas, the gas station may be paying $4.01 per-gallon.
They generally make up the loss on bottles of water that cost $1.39 and other things with high profit margins.

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718677)

What the other guy said, if the bread weren't worth more to you than the money it costs, you wouldn't be buying it. Thus you are profiting.

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 6 years ago | (#24723749)

Seriously, I don't mean to sound offensive but you really seem to have a lack of understanding of basic, basic economics. When I buy bread I don't make a profit.

It's you that lacks a basic understanding. You are making an exchange, clearly both parties are profiting from it otherwise they wouldn't make the exchange.

Money is simply a medium of exchange, grease that helps a market's wheels move efficiently. A common factor which makes it easier to barter what you produce for what someone else produces.

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#24723807)

Hmm so you think in every transaction, both parties are making a profit? Wow, I had no idea that people have such a poor knowledge of capitalism.

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

raju1kabir (251972) | more than 6 years ago | (#24724565)

Hmm so you think in every transaction, both parties are making a profit?

Yes, because it's the case in a typical voluntary transaction. It's been explained above ad nauseum.

Loaf of bread costs bakery $1 to produce.

It sells for $1.50.

It would cost me $2 to make my own loaf of bread.

Both parties profit by $0.50.

Wow, I had no idea that people have such a poor knowledge of capitalism.

Indeed.

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#24724589)

You realise that there's a finite amount of goods and hence money around the world right? And since you've accepted yourself that money = goods, when profit is created on both sides of the transaction in money terms this is the same as you having a net "creation" of goods. If this continues for every transaction then you end up magically making more goods than exist.

But I guess if you've come out of a system spewing the same "Capitalism is good, everyone wins" tripe non-stop that's what you'll think.

Then again, I don't think you'll find many notable economists backing up your idea of limitless profit within a capitalist system.

Final point, your analogy is so ridiculously stupid it isn't even funny - though I did chuckle. You're claiming that because I paid for something, that hypothetically would cost me more from another source, I've profited? That's like saying if buy Item A from Shop 1 for $20, and it's available at Shop 2 for $30 I've profited $10. No, you haven't "profited". You haven't "made" any money. You've "spent" slightly less than you would have if you bought it elsewhere, but you're still paying more than the worth of the product since the person you're buying it from is making his own profit which can only be created by charging you more.

You are an idiot (2, Informative)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 6 years ago | (#24723583)

Generating profit (Revenue - cost) tells you that he's either underpaying his employees or overcharging his customers, or both.
That's where "profit" comes from. It's not some magical formula that's so hard to understand and explain.

No, it means he's generating value.

He may be making it for 20 and selling it for 30 but it may actually have a value of 50 to the buyer.

I just got an SMS from my boss. It probably cost him 30c which is "ridiculous" for such a tiny amount of data.

However the message was about intermittent connectivity problems we're having with payment processor we use. The 30c costs dwarfs what we can lose if the connectivity issues aren't addressed so it's value to us is much more (and that added value continues on to our customers and their customers).

That's a first world example but the same principle applies anywhere [slashdot.org] .

There is no shame in taking a profit if you are delivering value.

Stagnant Monopolies vs Investment Capitalist (1)

Nymz (905908) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717923)

From the article, it appears he is going into areas where governments enforce a stagnant one-size-fits-all monopoly on communications, and then he offers competition in the form of better coverage, lower prices, and respect for the customer. Unsurprisingly, people are responding in droves.

As for the tangent topic that he is making money, heaven forbid. If you rob people, then that is bad, but if provide a good or service that people appreciate, and then they show their appreciation by paying you, then that is good.

Re:Stagnant Monopolies vs Investment Capitalist (2, Interesting)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717981)

They're hardly "Enforcing" a monopoly if an Irishman with an MBA can stroll in and sell some phones.

Re:"Pouring money"? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24719037)

I'll bite - I happen to work for one of the core suppliers for Digicel, and I've been to most of the sites (in both the Caribbean and South Pacific). Yes - he makes billions. Yes, the 3 core technology suppliers (E//, HUA, RKN) make millions each year.

Guess what - the people in those countries are most grateful. You guys talk about Bell monopolies? Have you ever been to a dot of a country in the SP where whole villages share one phone line? Or in the Caribbean where monopolistic government incumbents charge twice the prevailing rate in the US for phone calls?

Digicel brings in infrastructure, very reasonable rates customized for each market, and AMAZING customer service, better than the you find in telco's in the NA and EMEA. "Pouring money" is exactly what he is doing. Papua New Guinea - site rollout complete, core and BSS rollout complete, hundreads of millions invested. And the government hints it's going to pull the license. Trinidad - 3 years battling the authorities to get a license to introduce competition into the market. I would say he's pouring money in where no one else dares to.

If they were selling crap, the markets would respond by not buying. You think the iPhone and PS3's create launch lineups? Deal with 1,500 Samoans lining up outside an outlet store to get a SIM card..

Does he give out money for food and medicine - no. But in these markets, it doesnt make a difference. Corruption prevails, and funds for those things would disappear into the ether before they ever made it to the people who needed it.

And before you go on ranting about being an outsider looking in - I grew up in one of those countries. I remember paying $200USD/ mth for 20 hours of 'net access (yes, I was a little better off..). I can tell you this - all of those places are much better off with healthy competition and excellent communication infrastructure.

So - the guy has balls to go in to some of the most inhospitable places on the planet, deliver excellent services, and overall make a buck from it - I say that's a fair deal.

Altruism doesn't make the world go round - money does. The best business models in my 10 years of experience are those that make money while delivering a product or service that improves improves the living/ working standards of the intended market. That's exactly what O'Brien is doing.

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 6 years ago | (#24720309)

Is his name L. Bob Rife? Oh wait, its O'Brien..sounds like Rife, though.

Re:"Pouring money"? (1)

u38cg (607297) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721215)

If you give most people in the third world a choice, they will take a mobile phone over almost anything else of roughly the same value. Instant communication is an economic multiplier, just like decent roads or an efficient courts system. The difference is the free market can supply cell phones and doesn't have to wait on their useless governments. This guy, (like several others you haven't heard about) is doing more for the third world than a lifetime of donating to Save the Children.

Re:"Pouring money"? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24723745)

I work for the company that supplies all the cellphones for Digicel in the South Pacific and I have to add this as an aside. In PNG Digicel is one of the largest direct and indirect employers and the country and they pay a considerable amount more than the local average wage (which is around 50c US per hour). All the Digicel offices are clean, bright, and have considerable IT resource (better facilities than many companies here in NZ) - working conditions are far and away better than all other local companies I have seen.

In less than a year Digicel had contributed 0.7% growth to the GDP of Papua New Guinea. And the article is spot-on, locals love Digicel and the services they provide - for example international calls cost 3 times less than they do for landlines in NZ which is a supposedly developed country. You can pick up an sms capable cellphone, a prepaid simcard loaded with a decent amount of credit for the equivalent of $20USD. The government encumbent used to charge around $120USD!

Despite the fact that somebody (or some people) are getting rich, I have seen first hand that the changes that Digicel have brought about in the poorer Pacific nations have been for the better.

Cell phones??? (5, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717783)

It's easier to get a damn cell [worldbank.org] phone [thestranger.com] than it is to get clean water.

Re:Cell phones??? (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717843)

Maybe this [realestatefuturist.com] would've helped to illustrate my point a bit better. Of course cell phones are much more profitable.

Re:Cell phones??? (1)

hansraj (458504) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718507)

Insightful?

I don't know about the african picture but the one with the indian women says zilch. You don't see the background so all you have is her traditional cloths, and that is somehow supposed to imply that she doesn't have access to drinking water (or atleast that she is very poor?)

Now, I surely agree that a big chunk of world population is without clean water but are you implying that it is the same population that has trouble finding clear water that is getting cellphones? If yes, I would like proof that is better than a picture that could have better served as propaganda picture (since it gives you the feeling of saying a lot but actually says nothing).

And if you didn't want to imply that the two populations (lacking water vs. cellphone) are the same then what was your point again? Just because a chunk in a country can't access basic necessities, should others who can even access technology stop doing so?

Re:Cell phones??? (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718687)

First, the article is an ad for this guy. Second, priorities. But real needs have no place in the "free" market, do they? And yes, there are quite literally many parts of the world where it's easier to get a cell phone than clean drinking water out of the tap. For instance, Chiapas, Mexico, just about any place in Central America. Proof? Come down for a visit. I'll give you all the proof you need there. And another thing, I see plenty of very poor people wear very nice, locally made clothes. You think they all wear shredded pants and a dirty "wife beater" from Red Cross disaster relief? Hell, I dress worse than they do. None of my clothes are newer then five years old. My point is that there's money for both. Which would you rather have first? All indications are the cell phone. But that's only because these people believe there's no no money for a decent water infrastructure, because the authorities tell them so. If they knew the truth, you can bet they would demand it. But high profit, gimicky toys are always an easy sell. Let's see how much use they get when the bill comes due or when the army blows up the towers.

Re:Cell phones??? (1)

wanderingknight (1103573) | more than 6 years ago | (#24719197)

But real needs have no place in the "free" market, do they?

Of course not. We must keep spending what little we can gather on the false needs created by those in power.

Great (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24717839)

now they can all make remote IED's.

now we can get (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717853)

419 text messages on our cellphones...

Re:now we can get (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24718087)

This rather assumes that people in Nigeria don't already have mobile phones. They do, and they have had (in amazingly large numbers) for a decade.

It's not uncommon out there to have a handset for each of the networks (because the kit is cheap and there network interop is not).

Mobile phones aren't a luxury in a culture that relies heavily on personal trust networks, buying and selling the old fashioned way, and has a useless, expensive and corrupt fixed-line network.

...and pretty soon the Pulse will hit.... (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 6 years ago | (#24717949)

...the developing countries, too. And then we'll have phone crazies all over the world.

Next thing, we'll have to be scrawling KASHWAK=NO-FO on walls around the world...

Non-problem (1)

appelza (1151359) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718157)

Cellphones are extremely wide spread and popular throughout Africa already, this should not be a concern.

Third world? Hah! Please come to Canada! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24718177)

Canada ranks last in cellular technology among OECD countries (ie, the "western world"), with the highest prices for voice calls and data.

Libya has a better cell phone network than Canada does. Yes, Libya.

Even the CEO of Research in Motion, maker of the blackberry (which is a Canadian company), has said many times that Canada's cell phone networks are holding back progress.

Why, you ask? That's because Canada has an oligopoly of three large cell phone companies with very little competition between them. Further, foreign companies are barred from the Canadian telecom market.

The Canadian government, in its wisdom, has decided that it is better for Canadians to be screwed by Canadian companies than to be charged a reasonable amount by a foreign company.

Libia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721589)

Libya is a flat part of the Northen Sahara, a fair bit of oil wealth and an area of 679,359 sq mi

Canada is a few hills (to put it lightly) and is 3,854,085 sq mi

Wake up dude, Libya isn't the arse end of knowhere.

Lack of infrastructure (5, Interesting)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 6 years ago | (#24718179)

The introduction of cheap cell phones kills any incentive for the government to push any landlines (or upgrade those already existing) outside of the main cities. Without landlines, there's no internet. A good example is is Bali, Indonesia. Bali is one of the most advanced (and richest areas of Indonesia) and yet in many areas just 3 miles outside of the main cities there are no landlines and no internet. There's also very, very spotty cell coverage. If say, you have a small guesthouse or crafts company, there's no way you can advertise or communicate with your customers.

Re:Lack of infrastructure (2, Insightful)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 6 years ago | (#24719009)

Without landlines, there's no internet.

With 3G, at least here in Finland, we have internet everywhere. I see no reason why this wouldn't be possible in any country with mobile phone infrastructure. Only the mobile phone operators need to be connected to an Internet backbone, that's all.

Re:Lack of infrastructure (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722085)

Your towers still need a high-speed local loop if you're serving 3G from them. Nothing like trying to push 50Mb/sec from your phone to the tower, with the tower having a 1.5Mb/sec microwave uplink.

Re:Lack of infrastructure (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#24719627)

The introduction of cheap cell phones kills any incentive for the government to push any landlines (or upgrade those already existing) outside of the main cities. Without landlines, there's no internet.

Ummm... I think you've got a seriously false assumption:
that any of those people can afford a computer.

The cellphones these poor people are buying are the simplest handsets possible. Before that cellphone, the highest tech items these people might have owned is a TV, generator, or a radio/cassette.

Internet is worth zero to people who cannot access it.
And you can't subsidize their access with advertising, since the poor can't buy the advertised goods anyway.

Re:Lack of infrastructure (1)

bazorg (911295) | more than 6 years ago | (#24719683)

Well, voice calls were invented and in demand before internet access and things worked out OK for most of the Western world for many years. After there is some sort of telecom market, they'll find out what they need next: dial up on GSM, dial up on POTS, ADSL, UMTS, WIMAX, Wifi, carrier pigeons, ...

Re:Lack of infrastructure (1)

Solandri (704621) | more than 6 years ago | (#24720277)

Landline phone technology has been around for over a hundred years. If a country hasn't installed landlines yet, it isn't because cell phones are killing government incentive to install them. The government already lacked incentive to install them long before cell phones ever arrived. If anything, rudimentary Internet access on cell phones should spur the populace to demand faster Internet access, thus providing a greater incentive for the government to install landlines. People don't know to ask for something they've been missing out on, until they get to experience it first-hand.

Coming to the party late... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24718541)

I'm an expat living in Rwanda right now and I can tell you that mobile phone usage here and in most other African countries is already well established.

Poorest places in the world (1)

Builder (103701) | more than 6 years ago | (#24719097)

I've done extensive work on cellular delivery in some of the world's poorest places - Niger, CAR and Guinnea Bissau. In all of them, I found that people would pay whatever it took to have a cell phone, even if that meant no medicine for the kids or no shoes to walk to school in.

I quit because it made me so sad.

Re:Poorest places in the world (2, Insightful)

u38cg (607297) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721233)

And did it occur to you that they might actually have a clearer idea of what might benefit them than you do? Decent, reliable communications are the cornerstone of both civil society and economic growth. They understand that, even if you don't.

Awesome, now 3-rd world A-Holes (2, Funny)

AssTard (684911) | more than 6 years ago | (#24719213)

That's just great The world needs starving folks to be running around yacking on there phones. That'll really encourage us to feed them. NOT.

Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24719831)

All the illegal immigrants heading to Malta from Libya are armed with satellite phones anyway. They call Rome when they're about 70 miles south to get picked up by the local aquatic taxi service.

Sounds like they're all doing fine without outside help.

Posting as AC to avoid the Thought Police.

Coconuts in advanced (1)

zukinux (1094199) | more than 6 years ago | (#24720145)

If we give cellphones for places like Trinaded, we should get back some Coconuts... :)

India call centers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24723123)

Don't give out cellphones to turd world. It is bad enough dealing with smelly indians
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