Southeast Asia’s Third Mobile Tier

The mobile revolution is moving from second tier countries in Southeast Asia to the third and final tier. Whereas previously Indonesia and the Philippines were seeing the biggest growth in mobile Internet traffic, now it’s Burma (Myanmar) and Cambodia which top the list in terms of user- and usage-growth, according to the Opera State of the Mobile Web report for July:

    • Myanmar and Cambodia lead the top 10 countries of the region in terms of page-view growth (6415.0 % and 470.1 %, respectively).
    • Myanmar and Cambodia lead the top 10 countries of the region in growth of unique users (1207.5 % and 179.1 %, respectively).
    • Myanmar and Cambodia lead the top 10 countries of the region in growth of data transferred (3826.6 % and 353.2 %, respectively)

Of course these figures are from a low base, and the Opera data is not the easiest to trawl through. (The Opera mobile report is always interesting reading, so long as you take into account that the Opera browser is for many people a Symbian browser and so of declining popularity in some quarters. Also their data is never presented in quite the order one would like, so you have to dig. )

Looking at the figures in more detail, and throwing them into a spreadsheet of my own, it’s clear that Burma is definitely an outlier. Cambodia’s growth is impressive, but Burma’s is by far the greatest out of all 27 countries surveyed. Here’s how it looks:

2011-07 Page view growth SEA

So is the Burma usage real, or is this just a jump from nothing to slightly more than nothing? I suspect it may actually be a sizeable jump. Opera are coy about the actual number of users (so we may actually be dealing with a small dataset). But the figures suggest that this is a real spurt in usage: Burmese mobile users are transferring more data per page view than any other of the 27 countries surveyed, and the page views per user is on a par with the Philippines and Thailand.

I’d cautiously suggest that Burma, along with Cambodia and Laos, are beginning to show exhibit some of the signs of what one might pompously call “mobile societies”: using the mobile phone as an Internet device as a regular part of their activities. Take the page views per user, for example, which measures how much they’re using the mobile phone to view the Internet (Brunei seems to be in a league of its own; I don’t know what’s going on there, except that in terms of nightlife, I’d have to say not much):

2010-07 Page views per user SEA

It’s probably too much to conclude that mobile phones as Internet devices are now mainstream in this third tier of the region, but it’s a healthy sign, with lots of interesting implications.

Libya: We’re Back. Iran: We’re Not

In its latest quarterly report Opera looks a how quickly Libyans have gone back online with their mobile devices after six months in the dark. The graphic pretty much sums it up:

Talking of Internet blocking, Opera noticed that Iran continues to mess with Internet access for its citizens:

While we can speculate on government intervention or an operator shutting down Opera Mini access, the numbers are striking. Opera Mini usage in Iran dropped 36% in July. Most of the user loss occurred over five days, from July 4th to July 9th. Iran is no stranger to these quick drops. After reaching new highs, Opera Mini usage drops quickly. On June 14, 2011, Opera Mini reached an all-time high in Iran. The next day, usage plummeted more than 48%.

One can indeed only speculate, but the June plummet may be to do with the June 12 second anniversary of the 2009 election, when marchers took to the streets [Inter Press Service report via Asia Times]. (The lag between the Sunday June 12 march, the spike in traffic two days later, and then the plummet could either be explained by the marchers using their cellphones and then losing interest, or the sudden interest of the security services in curtailing mobile traffic to disrupt more planned marches.

The July drop in traffic I can’t explain: I’ve looked for events around that time, but can’t find any.

News: Tag Me Up, Scotty

 Interesting article from Wired on a technology called Hypertags from the UK. Starting this month, Londoners will be able to point their handphones or personal digital assistants (PDAs) at posters in cinemas and get back links to web pages. The idea is not a bad one, although I’m not sure how exciting that particular example is. A better use of the technology appears to have been last year’s demo at the Tate Modern museum in London where visitors could download snippets of information about the exhibits as they looked at them. The smart tags can be attached to anything — advertising panels, billboards or walls — and customers wielding gadgets equipped with infra-red or Bluetooth can download a small program to utilize the service.
 
 
Hypertag promise improvements such as visual recognition, where users point their phone at a magazine or newspaper article and be linked to a Web page. TV viewers could point their phones at a television program, they say, and access related Web pages. Hmmm. I like the idea in general, in that it’s theoretically less intrusive than the usual sort of phone pitching-at-you-where-you-are thing, but a) all this big content stuff depends on the phone becoming a virtual Internet browser and b) I feel they may be missing the bigger opportunity here. Surely this kind of thing should be used in shops where you can glean more information about what you’re about to buy by pointing your device at it — whether it’s cabbages or a DVD burner — and making the best use of the phone’s selling points: its mobility, its size, its connection to instant data. Who wants to visit the movie homepage when you’re in the cinema foyer? Or am I missing something?