BlackBerry is doing incredibly well — in Africa

November 13, 2013

(Mr. T in DC.)

A recent report on Internet trends made huge waves when it showed Netflix and YouTube accounting for some 50 percent of all wired broadband download activity. Unnoticed, however, was a bit of welcome news for a company better known for its recent financial troubles.

Yes, even though we've heard quite a bit about BlackBerry's woes, there are at least a couple markets in which the company is doing rather well.


(Sandvine)

One is Africa. BlackBerry is huge there. It accounts for 14 percent of all Internet traffic at peak hours across the continent, and it's second only to normal Web browsing. The company hardly makes an appearance in similar charts for other regions. Granted, Internet access in Africa is still maturing, but this is very promising for the Canadian device maker.


(Sandvine)

Another area in which it performs well is Latin America, where BlackBerry ranks fourth and competes rather closely with Web browsing. Brazil has been a historically strong market for BlackBerry, shoring up the company's subscriber base as its losses mounted in the United States and elsewhere. Late last month, the company announced it had sealed a deal with a major regional re-seller of BlackBerry devices.

So what makes the developing world a more lucrative place for BlackBerry? One answer could lie in the way BlackBerry transmissions are relayed. "BlackBerry smartphones are efficient because all of their data (e-mail, browsing, BBM) is tunneled to a network operations center (NOC)," according to Sandvine, "and because of this it is seen as one singular source of traffic accounting for 14 percent of traffic."

In a developing economy where resources have to be carefully allocated and waste minimized, this argument makes a lot of sense. BlackBerry has also tended to field low-cost devices in these markets, saving its more expensive handsets for places like the United States. Greater accessibility to BlackBerrys means a higher likelihood that they'll become widely adopted.

BlackBerry may be at the lowest point it's ever been overall. But these charts are a reminder that its renewed focus on developing economies offer a great deal of potential growth, despite the company's sluggish performance in the United States.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post.
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