Somewhere Out There | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 20.03.2002
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Somewhere Out There

The Arabian Desert and the South Pacific are only a phone call away. Thanks to the latest developments in mobile technology, the most remote regions are rapidly linking up to the worldwide communication network.


No camel needed for mobile communication

It could be a setting for National Geographic - a desolate stretch of land in the middle of the Jordanian desert. Three older men and a younger one are sitting around a smoldering fire in a traditional Bedouin tent, brewing tea.

Two tourists, a German and an American join them.

Suddenly a shrill peeping breaks the peaceful setting.

The Bedouin rummage frantically through their camel skin bags until one of the men pulls out a small and all-too-familiar handheld device. The tourists look on in disbelief.

Is this a commercial for one of the big mobile phone manufacturers, they ask themselves.

Then they all laugh and the conversation turns to a universal topic: mobile technology.

The young Jordanian has a Siemens, one of the older men a Motorola; the German has a Nokia. Each of them passes their phones around the fire, politely admiring them and asking about their functionality and network compatibility.

Mobile worldwide

Yes, this is the middle of the desert in a traditional community. And yes, the setting is thousands of miles away from the centers of commerce and technology.

But mobile phones are after all the way of the future worldwide.

According to recent statistics gathered by the German Trade Association for Information Technology and Communication, there are currently 958 million mobile phone users in the world.

And these are by no means only in the first tier industrial nations.

One of the fastest growing markets for mobile telecommunications is the smaller, so-called thresh-hold nations, where traditional telephone service is often under-serviced or non-existent for significant portions of the population.

Nowhere else is this more obvious than at this year’s CeBIT.

For the first time in the computer fair's history, smaller countries on the thresh-hold of information technology and mobile telecommunications are taking up a noticeable section of the halls.

They may not be as big as those for the German or American companies, but the stands for mobile phone service in countries like Jordan and the United Arab Emirates are attracting attention.

And for good reason.

Mobile telecommunications is a rapidly growing industry in these countries with plenty of room for foreign investment.

Jordan jumps ahead

In Jordan, for example, there were more than 900,000 mobile telephone lines registered in 2001, compared to only 450,000 traditional land lines.

For many households, the only way to call a neighbor or relative is by way of cell phone.

The trend for the future is clearly mobile phones, said Mr. Bilal O. Abuzeid, marketing coordinator for the Association for Information Technology of Jordan. Land lines are more expensive to build and maintain so it doesn't make much sense to spend money investing in their construction, he told DW-WORLD at CeBIT.

Mobile telecommunication networks, on the other hand, are relatively inexpensive. There are no extensive wires and large masts criss-crossing the countryside.

And mobile phone relay stations can be erected specifically in the regions with the highest concentration of users, thereby getting a better return on investment.

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