News From Telecom World

Mobile broadband set to soar in Asia

Posted on: November 13, 2008

THE number of subscribers to High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) services – a technology that enables broadband access on mobile phones and other computing devices – will more than double next year in Asia, according to a forecast by telco industry group GSM Association (GSMA).

In an interview with BizIT, Jaikishan Rajaraman, GSMA director of product and service development, said the number of users in Asia subscribing to HSPA will swell from 26.5 million to 53.5 million over the next 12 months. Fuelling this trend are soaring demand from both businesses and consumers, coupled with falling prices of mobile broadband services, he said. This trend is expected to be mirrored in other parts of the world, including Europe and the US.

In August, GSMA – a global trade organisation comprising more than 750 mobile phone operators around the world – reported that the number of HSPA subscribers worldwide had exceeded 50 million, from 11 million a year ago. There are 197 HSPA commercial deployments in 92 countries, with Asia currently accounting for 46 per cent of the global HSPA subscriber base, according to GSMA.

‘Mobile broadband has truly made socio-economic impact, especially in emerging markets like Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka as well as developed markets like Australia, Japan and South Korea,’ said Mr Rajaraman.

As Asia embraces mobile broadband, Singapore is expected to be at the forefront of the trend.

He observed that telcos in Singapore have been proactive in upgrading their mobile broadband network to the latest HSPA specifications. And he believes more HSPA devices, in particular HSPA-ready laptop PCs, will become available here in the coming months, further stoking this trend.

‘Mobile broadband adds value to consumers in Singapore, who already recognise the importance of mobility, and the overall impact in strengthening Singapore’s role as an international business and communications hub,’ the GSMA official said.

Last month, StarHub announced plans to upgrade its data network to HSPA’s next guise, dubbed HSPA+. The telco said its network will enable uplink speeds of 5.76Mbps by end December, and downlink speeds of up to 21Mbps by the second quarter next year. StarHub currently offers a maximum downlink and uplink speed of 14.4Mbps and 1.9Mbps respectively.

SingTel likewise has been beefing up its data networks. In May, it announced plans to upgrade its HSPA network for downlink and uplink speeds of up to 14.4 Mbps and 5.76 Mbps respectively, by next March. It currently offers a maximum downlink and uplink speed of 7.2Mbps and 1.5Mbps respectively.

MobileOne currently offers mobile data plans with speeds that top out at 7.2Mbps for downlink, and 2Mbps for uplink.

Uplink refers to sending data from devices to the Web and other devices. A faster uplink speed means that the posting of photos to Facebook or dispatching of e-mail messages. for instance, will be faster. Downlink refers to downloading Web pages and e-mail messages on devices.

Mr Rajaraman believes that prices of mobile broadband services will steadily tumble in the coming months as telcos’ economies of scale for this platform continue to improve. This, coupled with falling prices of HSPA hardware and peripherals, will fuel more demand and market growth for mobile broadband, he said.

‘Demand and deployment of mobile broadband will continue to grow despite the economic downturn, because access to information will be more critical than ever for enterprises and consumers, to help them make the right decisions at the right time,’ he said.

‘There is nothing that would derail the growth of mobile broadband in our opinion. Indeed, we anticipate that operators would be hard-pressed to roll out networks fast enough to meet the sheer demand for these services, especially in developing nations where fixed lines are scarce or completely nonexistent,’ he added.

‘This is where mobile broadband enables the common man to leapfrog fixed broadband entirely.’

Source: Business Times

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