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The line between mobile communications – voice services as opposed to broadband services – is becoming blurred by the rapid uptake of smartphones.
This makes it more difficult to produce reports with a clear delineation between the two sectors. This report concentrates specifically on the mobile broadband developments and therefore, in the developed mobile communication markets in particular, it does not include statistical and other information on the underlying mobile communication part of the market – for example, general statistics on mobile subscribers and revenues.
That information can be found in our other report on this market: Asia - Mobile Voice Market
The countries covered in this report include: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Georgia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam.
The highly developed telecom markets of Asia signal where the overall mobile data and broadband wireless market is heading
With some 3.6 billion people across Asia using mobile phones – around 52% of the number of mobile subscribers in the world – spread across a diverse range of markets, the region is already rapidly advancing in its exploiting of mobile data/wireless broadband services.
While 3G licensing and the ongoing launch of 3G services in Asia has certainly provided the fundamental platform for growth in wireless data services, 3G has also been providing opportunities for both wireless access and content providers in domestic markets. In South Asia, in particular, more people own a mobile phone than a PC, giving the delivery of mobile data services huge potential there. Although one can obviously say that in terms of system sophistication ‘the show has moved on’ in the more advanced markets, 3G is continuing to provide the basis for ongoing development of mobile data across much of the region.
It should also be noted that mobile data is by no means a new phenomenon in the region. An example of the early widespread adoption of a particular mobile data service in Asia was the Short Message Service (SMS). SMS became very popular throughout Asia ahead of the wider market, with remarkable growth being experienced in particular in the Philippines and Malaysia, as well as in China.
The business plans of the majority of mobile operators have been built on the assumption that the key to further revenue growth lies not just in accumulating more and more subscribers, but in the ability to offer more Value-Added Services (VAS) and, most importantly, efficient and effective access to the internet. This in turn allows the operators to pursue higher ARPUs based on offering genuinely greater value added services plus improved quality to customers.
Another early move into mobile data within Asia was Japan’s NTT DoCoMo launching its i-Mode service and its two rivals –SoftBank and KDDI – following with the launch of their own versions of i-Mode. The result was dramatically successful as an early push into largescale mobile data services; at its peak over 80% of mobile subscribers in Japan were logging on from a mobile using one of these platforms.
More recent mobile data development in Asia has essentially been built on the 3G and 3G+, now 4G/LTE technology. As a consequence, right across Asia, with the transition to a range of new generation mobile platforms, there has been a major shift from mobile voice to mobile data.
A good example of the way in which next generation networks have been progressively reshaping the mobile markets across the region can be found in Singapore. (See table below.) By August 2014 the number of mobile subscribers stood at 8.2 million for a penetration of 152%; most significantly, of these subscribers 7.9 million were signed up to 3G or 4G services. That meant that just the 3G and 4G subscribers combined represented a population penetration already well in excess of 100% by that stage. In other words, Singapore had far more mobile broadband subscriptions than population.
Importantly, 4G/LTE already has a significant presence in the Singapore market. The three mobile operators all launched a form of 4G in 2012 and have since been rapidly expanding their coverage at a rate that effectively saw a full national presence by end-2013.