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Google Plans Wireless Networks In Emerging Markets

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the bridging-the-digital-divide dept.

Google 43

kgeiger writes "The next billion customers have to come from somewhere. The Wall Street Journal today reports that Google will fund, deploy, and manage wireless networks in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. From the article: 'The Silicon Valley company is deep in the throes of a multipronged effort to fund, build and help run wireless networks in emerging markets such as sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, said people familiar with the strategy. The wireless networks would be available to dwellers outside of major cities where wired Internet connections aren't available and could be used to improve Internet speeds in urban centers, these people said.'"

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Adverts (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year ago | (#43816247)

I wonder what kinds of things Google's customers will target at these people?

Re:Adverts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43816253)

Food.

Re:Adverts (4, Informative)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#43816289)

It sounds from TFA like Google plans to make money off these customers more directly, through subscription fees for Internet service.

Re:Adverts (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year ago | (#43817033)

It sounds from TFA like Google plans to make money off these customers more directly, through subscription fees for Internet service.

Yes, of course. There are bucket loads of cash to be made from sub-Saharan Africans, what with all of their disposable income.

My point is, connectivity is *not* Google primary business. Yes?

Re:Adverts (2)

pedantic bore (740196) | about a year ago | (#43816443)

Exactly my thought. The profit margins for Google are never going to be higher than they are right now -- the next billion people aren't going to be able to afford the $150 jeans Google is showing me ads for... and the billion after that are going to be even poorer. When you're wondering where your next meal is coming from, you probably aren't going to spend a lot of time on Google+.

The idea that Google is going to make money on subscription services is dubious. It's a business model (hello, AOL!) that doesn't work, even in markets that actually have money to spend on such things.

Re:Adverts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43816515)

I can't even afford the $150 jeans google shows me.

The idea that Google is going to make money on subscription services is dubious. It's a business model (hello, AOL!) that doesn't work, even in markets that actually have money to spend on such things.

AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner, Sprint, Hulu, Netflix, Cablevision, Comcast, Direct TV... None of these companies make money from subscription based services, right?

Re:Adverts (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43817911)

Not really, no. They make money by government aided extortion rackets and price fixing. If there were a real free market in communication based off the actual costs involved and not arbitrary fees set on arbitrary levels of access then 100mbps internet with no cap would cost something like $5 a month.

Most ISPs charge based on estimated consumption at a rate estimated at $1 per 5gb of transfer. If your ISP has a 250GB cap on you your plan costs around $50. If you're not capped (with overage fees) yet then count yourself lucky.

Re:Adverts (2)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#43816701)

The idea that Google is going to make money on subscription services is dubious.

By wireless I assume they mean Cellular.

Marketing Cellular to "sub-Saharan Africa" might work because The number of mobile phone users in sub-Saharan Africa rose by 44 per cent to 475 million [africareview.com] , compared to just 12.3 million fixed line connections, representing the highest proportion of mobile versus fixed line connections in the world.

By comparison, there are only 326 million subscribers in the US. [ctia.org]

(There is little street level wired infrastructure there, and cellular is the big player. [gsma.com] (pdf). )

So cellular penetration is already bigger there than you might imagine, and apparently there is no problem affording handsets, and computers. So if there is enough money to buy equipment there is probably enough money to support advertising.

I would worry more about becoming targets for muslim extremists than failing to gain traction due to poor market conditions.

Re:Adverts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43816815)

You think the very poor have no interest in buying goods and services that could make their lives better? How very white of you.

.

Re:Adverts (1)

pedantic bore (740196) | about a year ago | (#43816889)

Interest, yes. Cash, no.

That's what being very poor means.

Re:Adverts (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#43817931)

Interest, yes. Cash, no.

That's what being very poor means.

Then how do explain that there are far more cell phone subscribers in SSA than in the USA?

Re:Adverts (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year ago | (#43816915)

You think the very poor have no interest in buying goods and services that could make their lives better?

To be fair, I think the objection was more that the very poor lack money to buy goods and services that could make their lives better rather than that they lack interest.

A particular subset of this problem would be that the very poor may also lack the money to purchase devices to access the network Google is deploying. OTOH, an effort to provide developing-world internet access and devices in the short term could spur development that alleviates this situation in the long term, and leave Google with a pretty big incumbency advantage as the market becomes more valuable. So, while it may be high-risk, there's potentially a big payoff from a purely capitalistic standpoint. (Spurring development could also be a big payoff from a humanitarian standpoint, as well.)

Re:Adverts (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43816929)

When you're wondering where your next meal is coming from, you probably aren't going to spend a lot of time on Google+.

You are confusing cause and effect. Most of the third world is poor precisely because their people have little access to information. This facilitates corruption, and leads to price fixing and low productivity. Once poor people can blog about corrupt officials and law breaking garment factories, and Google for the wholesale price of corn in the closest big city, then they will not be so poor anymore. During the last decade, the spread of cell phones has done far more to alleviate poverty than all the billions spent on foreign aid. It is time for the next step up.

yeah bitch (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43816291)

http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/809/yeahbitch.jpg/

go ahead.

-- go ahead, make the bad day worse

Welcome to Google Island? (1)

AtariDatacenter (31657) | about a year ago | (#43816295)

So, Google wanted their place that was free of government regulation to experiment and try new things out. It sounds like, in many ways, they have found it. They can get their feet wet and learn the ropes of wireless networks. Maybe in time, they'll come back to the US and play against the big boys.

Re:Welcome to Google Island? (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year ago | (#43816437)

I am not sure if I follow or agree.

At lot of those places don't have the government structure, or regulations, of developed countries. o.k. But they do tend to regulate big centralized things that make money – like telecoms. i.e. it is hard to tax and regulate small farms and firms that work informally and on the barter system. It is easy to regulate a big outside firm with lots of fixed assets that does not use barter. (I am assuming cash payments for access, not just ad reveneu.)

They might not be asking the right types of questions (i.e. privacy issues) but there will be regulations.

Re:Welcome to Google Island? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43820203)

On the other hand that kind of place features a rich bribery tradition, and Google should be able to shower the right guys with some cash to do their business as they please.

Re:Welcome to Google Island? (2)

kwerle (39371) | about a year ago | (#43816455)

Virtually everyone in the US who wants access to the internet has it. Huge numbers of them use google.

Lots of people who want access to the internet access in Africa and the pacific rim and can't get it (I guess).

Why would google not engage in those markets?

Seems like this has more to do with getting more users and rolling out technology in places with little competition than anything else.

Re:Welcome to Google Island? (1)

ickleberry (864871) | about a year ago | (#43816559)

If I was living in sub-saharan Africa I'd use Yahoo just to spite them :) Fresh unconquered eyeballs + internet subscription money must be a real winner for Google, they cant wait to get in there

Re:Welcome to Google Island? (1)

kwerle (39371) | about a year ago | (#43816709)

It's not like yahoo and microsoft have never poked at the ISP space. Mostly using partners, but there have often been rumblings.

Re:Welcome to Google Island? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year ago | (#43816943)

Maybe in time, they'll come back to the US and play against the big boys.

Google is already building out WiFi in the US (NYC, accompanying Fiber at least in Austin, some others), and playing against the telecom big boys in rolling out Fiber in the first place.

Their plans to expand to the developing world are following, rather than leading, their role in becoming an access provider in the US.

Re:Welcome to Google Island? (1)

AtariDatacenter (31657) | about a year ago | (#43817027)

The kinds of wireless networks the article was talking about were not WiFi (or fiber) technologies.

Customers? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43816313)

The next billion customers have to come from somewhere

The next billion products have to come from somewhere.

FTFY

Re:Customers? quoting nobody at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43816341)

You just quoted nobody at all. What's up with that?

http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/809/yeahbitch.jpg/

Go Ahead.


-- go ahead make the day worse!

Re:Customers? quoting nobody at all (1)

kevkingofthesea (2668309) | about a year ago | (#43816371)

You are correct, if by "nobody at all," you mean the first line of TFS.

Infrastructure (2)

satsuke (263225) | about a year ago | (#43816343)

Depending on _how_ deep they go into these countries, I think the larger issue will be simply getting backhaul into these areas, and working through the bureaucracy to get it done.

Near as I can tell, some of these countries regulations are on the level of "I thought it up when you asked the question".

They might have more success with setting up in-nation intranets for instruction and governance purposes (the society change that comes with instant communications, without necessarily, the buybuybuy aspects, at least initially or exclusively).

Re:Infrastructure (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year ago | (#43817157)

Depending on _how_ deep they go into these countries, I think the larger issue will be simply getting backhaul into these areas, and working through the bureaucracy to get it done.

Near as I can tell, some of these countries regulations are on the level of "I thought it up when you asked the question".

Well, Google is sitting on a pretty fat pile of cash, which usually is exactly the kind of thing you need to have handy to "comply" with "regulations" on the level of "I thought it up when you asked the question". So that may not exactly be a barrier.

Re:Infrastructure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43819913)

Well, google are one of the investors of http://o3bnetworks.com/ which is designed for this purpose.

Their satellites will be in MEO, so no huge latency like on GEO satellites, also allows the usage of Ka-band to better effect. Should be around 600 Mbps per beam (when it's not raining :) )

This is not benevolence... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43816393)

All of these hi-speed networks are not benevolence on the part of Google: they are getting more eyeballs on their ads. Full stop.

Re:This is not benevolence... (3, Interesting)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#43816591)

Benevolence implies a zero-sum game. Non-zero sum games are almost always more beneficial and sustainable.

Right on, Google.

Re:This is not benevolence... (1)

tnk1 (899206) | about a year ago | (#43816621)

Good. That means someone found a business model to justify getting these places get some Internet. That means they will actually get it, and might actually be able to keep it.

Re:This is not benevolence... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43820335)

"business model".. more like creepy shit. Letting an advertising company spy on all your ISP data is scary..

Re:This is not benevolence... (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#43816725)

And your problem with this is WHAT?

Can't afford what is being advertised (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43819017)

How will people living in a country with an undervalued currency afford what is being advertised? Answer that and you may begin to understand how Google's ad-supported business model may not work so well in less-developed countries.

Re:Can't afford what is being advertised (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#43819055)

They already have more cellular subscribers in SSA than in the USA, so its pretty clear that they can afford
devices and computers. Google is very good at matching ads served to users needs.
Did it even occur to you that Google will be selling ads to businesses in the same region or same city? Or are you so naive you believe Google will push ads for BMWs and Vegas vacations for people who only search for sandals and and oxen?

Re:Can't afford what is being advertised (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43819327)

They already have more cellular subscribers in SSA than in the USA

With or without data plans?

Did it even occur to you that Google will be selling ads to businesses in the same region or same city?

Yes. I'm aware of geolocation. But after exchange rates, businesses in the same city still might not be able to afford high enough ad rates to sustain ad-supported services.

What about here in the US? (1)

sertsa (158454) | about a year ago | (#43816695)

I live almost exactly 100 miles away from Chicago in rural Illinois, and I can't even get a cellphone signal at my home without going to the top of the nearest hill let alone wireless internet (our local electric utility said they were working on it 3 years ago). The assumption that the US is covered is BS.

Re:What about here in the US? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43816767)

And yet, here you are.

.

Re:What about here in the US? (1)

KingMotley (944240) | about a year ago | (#43817087)

I think what he means is that he can't use his $2.99 prepaid phone from walmart in his house. Now, he definitely could get satellite internet, and hook up a femtocell using AT&T, but, that isn't worth the cost to him. Of course, he probably could get a T1 run to his house as well, but the $600 outlay, and $250 per month again, isn't worth it to him.

"I can't get" != "I don't the added expense of..."

Re:What about here in the US? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year ago | (#43817171)

I still don't think your an example of the problem they are claiming to address, which is of people not having practical access to the internet. Which is, while not completely unheard of, fairly rare in the US and fairly common in the developing world.

Android emerging markets advantage (1)

mathew42 (2475458) | about a year ago | (#43818605)

Google have a distinct advantage in emerging markets over Apple because Chinese manufacturers will sell Android devices at a price point that more people can afford. However, that cannot happen without first providing wireless access.

The whole point of fibre in Kansas was to demonstrate that direct FTTP could be provided at a reasonable cost and challenge the existing players to provide a better product. This may be a similar tactic in Africa.

Remember for Google, the end game is for you to use their services in the cloud and that requires a network.

First cities, now Africa (1)

RavenManiac (220921) | about a year ago | (#43819359)

When can we get these goodies in rural America?

Regulation dragging its feet to open up spectrum (1)

fezzzz (1774514) | about a year ago | (#43831727)

The problem is that our government is too slow in switching to Digital TV in the lower section of the TV frequency band and opening up bandwidth for the cellular companies, which are well equipped to dish out bandwidth if they get the spectrum they require.

Google is not the right company to take hold of the spectrum, but I have to admit that they do take initiative. They just don't have the infrastructure that our cellular companies have. The cellular companies already have fiber in the ground, their towers are already transmitting. The only prohibition of the bandwidth to the public is spectrum available, which will hopefully become available soon as our national broadcasters are able to switch to Digital TV, but until that happens, I guess Google will have a chance at good publicity for the next few years.

Just google "icasa site:mybroadband.co.za" to get an idea of where our system can be improved.
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