Asia-Pacific Telecommunication Indicators 2002
To coincide with the launch of ITU TELECOM Asia 2002, the ITU has published the 5th edition of the Asia-Pacific Telecommunication Indicators.
The epicentre of the telecom world
When the first edition came out in 1993, the Asia-Pacific region accounted for just one-quarter of the world’s fixed telephone lines and around one-sixth of mobile users. In 2001, the region emerged as the world’s largest telecommunication market. It is today home to over one-third of the earth’s telephone subscribers (see Figure 1). It is the only region to have increased its market share significantly, adding more than one new telephone user every second for the last decade. Asia-Pacific also leads in advanced Internet technologies such as broadband access and mobile data, making it an exciting region to watch and from which to learn. The Republic of Korea and Hong Kong, China are the top two economies in the world in terms of broadband Internet penetration. In mobile Internet, Japan and the Republic of Korea were the first two nations to launch third generation cellular networks commercially. These exploits corroborate the view that the global telecommunications epicentre is shifting from North America and Western Europe to Asia-Pacific.
There are three principal reasons for the region’s rapid evolution: geography, economy and dynamism.
Broadband Asia: High-growth, high-speed
In the last ten years, the telecommunications environment in the Asia-Pacific region has changed unrecognisably. The rate of change has been the most dramatic in the mobile communications sector. The region now leads the world in several important market categories. Two of the top three mobile economies worldwide, measured by mobile phones per capita are from the region (Taiwan, China and Hong Kong, China). Furthermore, the world’s biggest mobile economy, measured by total number of subscribers, is from the region (China). Two other countries are pioneering the mobile Internet (Figure 2, left) with Japan having the largest number of mobile Internet users and the Republic of Korea the most high-speed (3G) mobile Internet users. The real surprise is in the growth of Taiwan, China, which shows little sign of slowing down even though the theoretical ceiling of 100 per cent mobile penetration was pierced in April 2002.
Perhaps the biggest impact of mobile communications has come not among developed, or even middle-income developing economies, but rather at the bottom of the development ladder, among the Least Developed Countries (LDC) of the region. Indeed, it was an Asian LDC, Cambodia, which in 1993 became the first country in the world where mobile phones exceeded fixed-line connections. Now, Cambodia has more than eight times more mobile phones than fixed-lines. Its experience has been repeated by a number of the region’s other LDCs. In Bangladesh, mobile overtook fixed during 2001. This success was partly due to the innovative means of supplying village phones to expand community access.
The Internet in Asia-Pacific has grown steadily. The region had some 160 million users at the end of 2001, accounting for one-third of the world total, and more than any other region. It also leads the world in broadband Internet with five Asian economies among the top twelve worldwide in penetration (Figure 2, right). It has also been an innovator, emerging as a leader in areas such as prepaid cards, offshore software development, e-government, cyber cafes and gaming. At June 2002, the region accounted for almost half the world’s Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) connections. It also has a high-level of cable modem deployment with some five million subscribers. Finally the region has more users of high-speed mobile Internet than the rest of the world put together.
Asia-Pacific’s new position of leadership in global ICT markets brings with it a new responsibility. The region has largely avoided the telecom recession that has affected the rest of the world, and now it must play its part in restoring investor confidence in the industry.
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Updated : 2007-08-28