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Asia-Pacific ICT Sector Keeps Climbing
ITU Report finds region global leader in mobile and broadband penetration

Geneva, 07 September 2004 — The Asia-Pacific region continues to show strong telecommunication market growth. The ITU Asia-Pacific Telecommunication Indicators 2004 report, issued at ITU TELECOM ASIA 2004 in Busan (Republic of Korea), found that growth rates for fixed lines, mobile subscribers and Internet users over the last few years have soared in a number of countries across the region. Mobile subscriber numbers rocketed by 31% per year between 2000-2003 to reach 560 million — overtaking North America as the world’s largest market. Numbers of fixed lines in the region also grew by 14% in the same period, surpassing the single digit growth rates seen in most other regions.

Next generation IMT-2000 services have been launched across the region and Japan and the Republic of Korea are emerging as global leaders in this field. Indeed, Japan has the world's highest penetration of mobile Internet users.

The number of Internet users in the Asia-Pacific region also experienced rapid growth — 38% year on year from 2000-2003. At the end of that period, the number of Internet users in the region amounted to 255 million, surpassing North America, which grew by 18% to reach 227 million users by yearend 2003. In comparison, Europe/CIS grew by 20% from 2000-2003, reaching 191 million in 2003.

Asia-Pacific Leads in Broadband Connected Economies

Asia Pacific’s broadband markets have shown exceptional growth. According to the report, by year-end 2003, four of the top 10 broadband-connected economies in the world were from the Asia-Pacific region. The Republic of Korea, with a broadband penetration of 23.3%, and Hong Kong, China — with a broadband penetration of 18% — top the global broadband league. They are closely followed by Taiwan, China (13.4%), and Japan (11.7%). Singapore is in 11th position at 10.1%.

A number of factors have helped the growth of broadband, including a favourable regulatory environment, the emergence of regional equipment manufacturers, and urban demographics. "The role of governments has also been critical in helping the rollout of broadband," explains Eric Nelson, a consultant and lead author of the Asia-Pacific Telecommunication Indicators report, "Governments have taken steps such as becoming preeminent adopters of the technology themselves, stimulated the development of adequate national backbone networks, created incentives for the establishment of competition, interacted closely with the private sector and given subsidies and other incentives to extend coverage into rural areas to reach new user groups."

New wireless technologies, which are currently being developed, could further help to extend the reach of ICTs into previously untapped rural or remote areas. WiFi — designed for local-area usage — is becoming a popular option for certain applications. Emerging wireless technologies such as iBurst or WiMax hold the promise of delivering very high-speed broadband access over a wide-area network, and could provide coverage for numerous villages or towns or even several of the Pacific Islands.

Disparities in Asia-Pacific Region Remain

The Asia-Pacific region encompasses some of the most and least connected economies in the world. Success in areas such as broadband or next generation mobile should not detract from the gap between the region’s low and high-income economies. At the end of 2003, total telephone penetration — fixed and mobile — in lower-income economies in the region was 22.6%, compared to 139.4% in the region’s upper-income economies. Although this gap is considerable, the good news is that it is showing signs of lessening. High levels of demand and more affordable technologies, amongst other factors, have meant that the growth rate for total teledenstity between 2001-2003 in lower income countries was substantially higher — at almost 28% — than in upper income countries. At these rates it could take less than 8 years for lower-income economies to catch up with today’s levels of teledensity in upper-income and developed economies. Governments could play a key role in helping less developed economies catch up. "By following the kind of steps taken by governments such as Japan or the Republic of Korea," says Nelson "The rapid ICT progress made by these countries can be duplicated in less developed markets. Asia-Pacific’s ICT future looks set to be a positive one."

The Asia-Pacific Telecommunication Indicators report will be available after its launch on 07 September.

For more information contact E. Magpantay.

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Updated : 2004-10-27