Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mobile gap between developed and developing Asia widens

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: The divide between mobile operators in emerging and developed markets in Asia-Pacific has widened, with major implications for foreign investment and 3G licensing, according to research firm Ovum.

Leading operators in developed markets such as NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, KT, China Mobile, and China Unicom are focusing more and more on new revenue growth opportunities. These Asian big guns are mindful of the threat of the over-the-top operators to the traditional mobile operator.

“New revenue streams are crucial to operators in developed Asian countries as the over-the-top players encroach on their territory,” said Nicole McCormick, Senior Analyst. “There are no surprises on the list of proposed sources of new revenue: open application stores, cloud computing, and machine to machine (M2M) are being pursued across the developed markets of the region. Emerging markets are way behind on this score.”

Indeed, markets such as Thailand, Bangladesh, and Pakistan have not even issued 3G licenses, yet operators are desperately trying to roll out mobile Internet and woo governments with research showing that greater Internet penetration increases GDP. As such, operators in these emerging markets are considering leapfrogging 3G and going straight to LTE due to continued regulatory delays in issuing 3G spectrum.

“Foreign investors tapping into the region must be wary that some emerging markets are still fraught with regulatory red tape, especially when it comes to 3G licensing,” said McCormick, based in Brisbane. “But it’s going to take some time for LTE consumer devices to become affordable for countries like Thailand and Bangladesh, leaving them with a dilemma – push ahead with 3G, or wait for LTE.”

Conversely, while developed country operators are not burdened by regulatory bureaucracy, operators in these markets still believe they can do everything themselves without the need to partner, for instance, on cloud services. “But it’s very early days, and we believe that partnering is essential and will lead to a more complex reality”, McCormick said.

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