This is yet another 'counter-intuitive' business opportunity that is thriving on mobile. The Wall Street Journal had a nice story on 24 November 2009 about 'mobile radio' from India. To explain first on how this works - you use your mobile phone, dial up a number, and then 'listen' to that 'radio channel' as a premium voice service. They offer a vast array of 'channels' from news to sports (cricket is the big national sport in India and live games are offered for the cost of about one US dollar per game) to Bollywood music hits to religious broadcasts across the many religions represented in India.
So far so good. But why not use the built-in FM radio, doesn't this effectively kill the whole proposition? No. Remember India is a very poor nation, the average GDP per capita is one quarter that of China, one tenth of that of Brazil, and one fourthieth (1/40) the size of the GDP per capita of advanced Industrialized nations like the USA, Germany and Japan. And the nation is huge in geographic size. So the Wall Street Journal explains the scale. There are 750,000 villages in India (where over 100 million people live) where there is no broadband internet; no fixed landline of any kind - so not even basic dial-up internet; no TV coverage; and not even basic FM radio coverage. But these 750,000 villages do have one way to connect - the mobile telecoms network. Very concretely, for these over 100 million people in India, their mobile phone is not the 7th mass media channel - it is not even the 'first' screen - it is the ONLY media and communication channel.
For them, it is either on mobile, or it does not exist. For them, if you are a fan of cricket or want a weather report as a farmer, or want to listen to the newest bollywood music hits, or want to listen to your religious teachings where your village is too small to have a formal place of worship like a temple etc, then the mobile is the only way. And most phones are very cheap, so this is not anything like the iPhone and the 'real internet'; on the phone. But 'mobile radio' is fully viable. Not as an advertising-sponsored radio model as we often listen to in the West, but a 'subscription' radio via mobile.
How big? as of 2009, there are 20 million paying subscribers to mobile radio just in India. They generate 200 milllion dollars worth of revenues, which is as much as the total FM radio business of India. When calculated against average users of the service, the mobile radio concept earns 83 US cents per month on average. Note that the average monthly total phone bill in India is about 5 US dollars, so that 83 cents per month is a very large proportion of the modest disposable income, if your monthly income is less than 100 dollars per month (even less in the poorest villages).
Expect these types of services to expand rapidly as the story is known, across many parts of Asia - think of all those islands in Indonesia and the Philippines for example; and across countries of wide expanses of villages, like say Pakistan and the interiors of China; and obviously much of Africa and many parts of Latin America. The beauty is that the simplest 20 dollar phone can do this, and the simplest pre-paid phone user can join in the radio experience this way, far far beyond the reach of FM radio reception.