Bzones score an A+

Bzone score an A+

According to a World Bank report, Information and Communications for Development 2012: Maximizing Mobile, around 6 billion people now have access to a mobile phone. The challenge now is not so much about the phone but how it is used. The report suggests that more than 30 billion mobile applications, or “apps,” were downloaded in 2011 and World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte commented that mobile communications offer major opportunities to advance human and economic development – from providing basic access to health information to making cash payments, spurring job creation, and stimulating citizen involvement in democratic processes. (Source

In just over 8 weeks since Bmobile started rolling out its free Wi-Fi service (Bzones), the service has registered over 8100 users, a 230% increase in users over the first month. These users have been spending over one hour a day connected to the service and already daily data usage is over 420,000 Megabytes. This is even before the company has rolled out the service in areas like Tobago, Point Fortin, Princes Town, Arima, Sangre Grande, Mayaro and Scarborough.

Globally, such access along with the rise in the purchase of smartphones and the availability of compelling content are feeding into the mobile lifestyle being adopted by more and more people. Locally, the availability of news media content, access to social network sites, financial services and retail trade promotions have lead more and more users to access the Internet with their smart device and in bmobile’s case, the free Wi-Fi service to existing customers has made it an uncomplicated and inexpensive proposition.

According to comScore “2012- Mobile Future in Focus”, in 2011, smartphone sales made up the majority of new phone purchases for the first time in countries like Germany, France, Italy, Canada and the U.S. joining the UK and Spain which passed this threshold in 2010. This is a trend that is expected to be replicated in developing markets like Trinidad and Tobago where wireless broadband capacity is expanding, smart devices are brought to market almost as soon as they are launched elsewhere, the cost of these devices is relatively inexpensive and there is the increasing availability of relevant local content.

Content truly is king when it comes to the mobile lifestyle. The comScore 2012 report for data usage in the USA, asserts that the use of mobile devices to access health information registered the highest jump in users, 134%,  in 4th quarter 2011 compared to the same period in 2010. Other big gains in users accessing content were Online Retail (87% ), Men’s Magazine content (82%),  and Electronic payments (80%). Making gains of between 69% - 77% were Kids / Family entertainment; Auction Sites; Classifieds; General Reference; Job Listings and Gaming Information.  ComScore also reported that 64.2 million U.S. smartphone users and 48.4 million smartphone users in UK, Spain, Germany, France and Italy, accessed social networking sites or blogs on their mobile devices at least once in December 2011.

These statistics speak to the benefits of complementing smart devices with easy, affordable wireless broadband access. Over 100 Airports and a number of cities across the globe have opted to implement free Wi-Fi services for the benefit of their respective “constituents”. In the case of Municipalities however, they have not recorded much success where they try to go it alone. In New York City, plans were recently announced to turn phone booths into Wi-Fi hotspots as an initiative by the entity that manages advertising space on the phone booths. In France, telecom group Iliad SA announced in April that it opened up its 4 million-hotspot community Wi-Fi network to its smartphone customers. As mentioned above, France is one of the countries where smartphone sales first eclipsed the sale of regular cell phones in 2011.

Easy to use, affordable wireless broadband not only provide high speed Internet access for free, it boosts economic development by increasing competition and worker productivity. Appropriately deployed, it can give officials such as those in the protective and emergency services, remote access to information and support intelligent transport systems for remotely managing traffic signals in urban areas. Public Transportation systems can also use it for vehicle monitoring and give commuters the ability to look at online schedules and real time arrival/departure for buses, or even ferries for that matter.

The biggest advantage however is bridging the digital divide, which has certainly become a key part of improving participation in the economy and providing more opportunities for personal development. Low income families, travellers, and city officials can access important information without cost being a barrier.

It is Bmobile’s goal that in addition to the above advantages, Bzones will make the business centres, recreational centres and town centres where they are located, more attractive to visitors and investors who value such connectivity. The Bzones will also enable small and home-based businesses to more effectively participate in the economy and hold up new business arrangements like telecommuting as viable options.

Within a few months the 22 Bzone locations presently in service will almost double and will complement the alternative for a paid service on Bmobile’s 4G ready network, giving customers the best of both worlds and making Trinidad and Tobago one of the best connected places in the world.