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Asia's demand for mobile comms growing

ForgetMeNot aims SMS product at burgeoning demand for communications amid lack of available infrastructure in Asia's emerging markets.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

Demand for mobile communications continues to grow, in spite of lack of available devices and infrastructure in some parts of Asia.

Paul Roberts, ForgetMeNot Software co-founder, told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview there is "huge demand" across the region for access to applications such as instant messenger (IM) and e-mail on the go.

This demand is "just as high" in Asia's emerging markets, but consumers there suffer from a lack of available connectivity infrastructure and high-end devices priced out of their reach, he said.

Fueled by the growth of Internet access in these locations, users are expecting to extend their online interactions to mobile devices, Roberts said.

He added that users in more remote countries without PC access are experiencing the Internet primarily through their mobile devices, and want to communicate with contacts online.

To address this "void", ForgetMeNot company sells a software product to carriers that converts text within instant messages and e-mail to SMS text, and vice versa. This allows users to carry the communication to their "ordinary, low-end" mobile phones, and also supplement data usage with cheaper SMS communication, said Roberts.

SMS model to persist
He said the software is not a stop-gap measure to help 2G carriers address the data demand before they upgrade networks. One factor keeping SMS alive, he said, is the higher-priced smartphone segment--although growing healthily--remains a minority of the overall handset market.

"SMS usage is increasing. The most widely-used app on the iPhone is SMS, because the [minority] using high-end phones still have to communicate with the rest of the world," Roberts insisted.

According to Informa forecasts, smartphone penetration is expected to reach 13.5 percent of new handsets sold this year and will treble by 2013 to make up 38 percent of all mobile devices.

On carriers in emerging markets planning to leapfrog 2G network upgrades straight to 4G, Roberts said the company's software provides a way for operators to use existing assets, ahead of undertaking the eventual upgrade.

Currently, all of the company's revenue comes from Africa. ForgetMeNot, however, has set up a headquarters in Hong Kong, in expectation of the region to pull revenues that are more or equal to that of Africa for the company.

"The infrastructure in Asia is more developed, with a greater awareness of mobile phone functions and Internet technologies," said Roberts. ForgetMeNot hopes these factors will provide an opportunity for the company to address the demand for mobile communication.

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