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Asia’s Biggest Growth is yet to come
Telecommunication Epicentre Shifting to Asia-Pacific Region
Hong Kong, 2 December 2002 — Strong
economic growth, coupled with greater consumer spending power, saw a positive
growth in telecommunication services in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a
new report by International Telecommunication Union. The effects of the 2001
global economic slowdown have been milder in this part of the world and a
ranking of the ten most profitable public telecommunication operators shows that
seven originate in Asia.
ITU Asia-Pacific Telecommunication Indicators, released by ITU
to coincide with ITU Telecom Asia 2002, reports that as a global player
the Asia-Pacific region distinguishes itself not only in size of its
telecommunication market and growth in teledensity but also in technology
deployment, and the innovative and flexible nature of its policy models.
In 2001, the region emerged as the world’s largest
telecommunication market, having added more than one new telephone user every
second for the last decade. The report observes that South Asia, currently the
least developed sub-region with a teledensity of 4 in 2001, could provide the
next great spurt of growth for the region as this is where the potential for
"catch-up" is greatest.
While Japan and the Republic of Korea continue to lead the
world in commercial deployment of 3G networks, small countries like Bhutan and
Tonga have also leapfrogged to leading edge technologies such as wireless LANs
and all-IP networks.
Singapore and Hong Kong, China withdrew exclusivity of their
operators’ licenses in order to introduce competition in international
services. Likewise, Thailand and Vietnam found ways to introduce alternative
suppliers and foreign investment into their markets.
Mobile and Internet Economy
In the mobile economy, the Asia-Pacific region is poised to
overtake Europe as the world’s largest market during 2002, although mobile
penetration is still below 10%. Two of the top three mobile economies worldwide,
as measured by mobile phones per capita, are from the region. They are Taiwan,
China and Hong Kong, China. The region also hosts the economies with the largest
number of mobile Internet users: Japan and Korea.
Mobile technologies also contributed to raising total
teledensity dramatically in many developing countries that might otherwise have
expected to remain locked into low levels of access. Thanks to mobile
substitution, while half the region’s developing countries had a teledensity
of less than one in 1993, this had been reduced to only two (Afghanistan and
Myanmar) by mid-2002.
The notion that restrictions on content would hinder Internet
usage has been disproved in Asia, as the region, with 160 million users, now
accounts for one-third of the total Internet users in the world, more than any
other region. Innovative schemes for community access, such as Indonesia’s warung
internets or warnets, have boosted internet usage, as have prepaid
cards and the boom in online gaming and e-government.
Asia-Pacific also leads the world in broadband Internet with
five Asian economies among the top 12 worldwide in penetration. Related to this,
capacity on Internet bandwidth has leapt eightfold over the last two years from
8 Gbit/s to 65 Gbit/s at the end of 2001.
"This region continues to push the envelope of universal
service," says Michael Minges, lead author of the report. "For those
Asian countries that have crossed a threshold of 30 telephone subscribers per
100 inhabitants, the focus has shifted to providing service directly to the home
and on keeping phone service affordable as cross-subsidies disappear," he
According to co-author Tim Kelly, the region’s developing
nations now have a much wider range of technical solutions for extending access
than at any time in the past. These solutions include mobile, satellite and
fixed-wireless access and well as traditional copper-based networks. "The
developing nations of Asia represent the real test of the potential of mobile
communications to extend access to telecommunication services. We know mobile
phones are popular among the urban rich; but will they also change the lives of
the rural poor?" Kelly said.
"Asia’s success story is evident in its rapid strides
towards competition, and its sustained growth in the face of regional, and then
global challenges," said Hamadoun Touré, Director of ITU’s
Telecommunication Development Bureau. "However, the real reason for
confidence lies not so much in the numbers of telephone, mobile and Internet
subscribers in the region, but rather, the digital opportunities represented by
the large numbers of those still waiting to be connected," Touré added.
For more Information, please contact:
Telecommunication Data and Statistics Unit
ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau
Tel: +41 22 730 6090
Head, Strategy and Policy Unit
International Telecommunication Union
Tel: +41 22 730 5202