Earlier this year, market research and financial consultancy company Finaccord reported that the number of expatriates across the world hit a new high, with growth continued over the next several years. Their "Global Expatriates: Size, Segmentation and Forecast for the Worldwide Market" report stated approximately 50.5 million expats are living, studying and working today worldwide, and the figure is expected to reach 56.8 million by 2017.
We in the mobile broadband industry see this as a “super mobile” trend, as global mobility transcends just mobile devices and networks. Finaccord’s report is the first ever to provide an analysis of expats, pulling data from 30 inbound countries and 25 outbound countries, which were chosen based on economic status and role in the expat market. The inbound countries included the U.S., Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy and Brazil, among others. Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Korea and Spain were among the outbound countries.
According to the report, most expats – 73.6 percent – are individual workers. Students, retired expats, corporate transferees and any remaining expat groups round out the ranking at 8.8 percent, 3.7 percent, 1.0 percent and 12.8 percent, respectively. Even though students are not yet the top group, the report estimated that the category will have the most rapid growth between 2013 and 2017, with a compound annual growth rate of 3.6 percent.
Other longer term migration trends are also interesting to consider, particularly as the communications industry’s models for “international long distance” continue to change as “over the top” applications like fring, Skype and WhatsApp are replacing long distance calling with rich multimedia voice, video and messaging services – often free for “on-net” subscribers.
The infographic below (from the Population Reference Bureau) cites five major drivers leading to the increasing levels of population migration globally: Demographic Inequality, Economic Inequality, and three “revolutions” – transportation, human rights, and communications.
In a presentation made at PTC’14, TeleGeography analyst Paul Brodsky kicked off his discussion by saying “Still Not Dead Yet…International Voice—Feel the Excitement!” For large carriers who have been struggling to replace declining ILD revenues, maybe “not so much” – but at the same time, this really is an exciting time for those companies who embrace what has felt like a threat, and that is Internet-based, over-the-top real time communications which have become wildly popular (and riding on their “pipes”) for the last ten years.
Brodsky went on to share his “Good News” for the carriers, which when combined with the growth in expatriates and general migration trends, is very true:
Add in the embedding of voice, video and messaging into social networking, and the international ecosystem starts looking even more interesting, with more opportunities than ever, especially for larger carriers who already have massive subscriber bases (collectively in the billions) to zero in on the opportunities to serve consumers and businesses who need to remain connected globally – even more than ever.
What’s inspiring about all this innovation, through software and mobile broadband network evolution, is that the communications revolution directly intersects with the other trends identified above.
Why Less Expensive, More Visual Global Communications Applications Matters
The more people who have access to not just “phones” and “phone calls” but to complete, intuitive, multimedia experiences made possible with a simple, strong connection to the Internet, the more our global society has to gain. The more open platforms, APIs and SDKs developers have at their disposal, the more powerful human experiences over the Internet will become – including experiences between doctors and patients, teachers and students, governments and the citizenry they are elected to protect and serve. This is the big “growth opportunity” the largest real time communications network operators, carriers and service providers don’t want to miss.