Asia-Pac Broadband Set for Big Growth, Big Challenges

Carl Weinschenk
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The barriers and boundaries between east and west are increasingly porous as communication becomes instantaneous and multinationals with headquarters in either area expand. The connection is also increasingly important for device makers as western markets become saturated.

Each Asia-Pac market is dealing with its unique variation of the same challenges and some that are unique to one nation. Two of the most important challenges are the need to proactively and cooperatively confront regulatory issues and, at least in the vast Chinese market, increase connectivity speeds that are too slow to support emerging services and applications.

The cumulative size of the market is staggering. Late last month, GSMA reported that broadband in the Asia-Pac region will generate $1.2 trillion in gross domestic product and create 35 million new jobs by 2020. That topline finding is followed by warnings by the organization that such growth won’t occur unless spectrum issues are addressed, meaning both adding to the amount available and allocating in a way that enables harmonious cross-border operations.


The Chinese government made a move late last month to deal with the capacity issue, according to PC Week. Chinese broadband is controlled by three state-controlled carriers. Two, China Unicom and China Telecom, dominate with 81 percent of the market. Despite the mammoth size of the market – about 632 million users – large areas don’t have broadband. In addition, the average speed of 3.7 Megabits per second (Mbps) is very slow.

The government aims to bring urban speeds to 50 Mbps by 2020. It released a draft last week that allows the state-controlled carriers to “loan” Internet service to private companies. They can rebrand the products and sell them at retail to end users.

Global Broadband

The future predictions are extravagant – and so is the present. Lightwave reports that Ovum and the FTTH Council Asia-Pacific say that the number of homes receiving broadband via fiber-to-the-home connections has crossed the 100 million mark:

The milestone puts FTTH subscribe[r]s in the region at nearly 10X the level of North America. There are 12.3 million homes connected via FTTH in North America, 10.9 million of those in the United States, according to figures the FTTH Council North America released in October.

It’s easy to see Asia-Pacific as a vast monolith telecommunications market. It isn’t. There are markets from small nations and huge nations. Some are advanced. Indeed, the South Korean and Japanese wired and wireless broadband markets may be the most advanced in the world. Others, such as China, are middling. It is clear, however, that a good deal of the overall growth in worldwide broadband will come from this area.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.



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