Asian telcos operators get their fair share of bagging for being unable to go beyond traditional businesses models. Many also reinforce that view with their often-voiced anxieties about being relegated to bit carriers.
But if you think innovation and original thinking has gone missing in Asian telecoms, you’re wrong.
The winners of last night’s Telecom Asia Awards confirm that.
Yes, I chair the judging panel of the awards, so I’m obviously biased. And there’s always plenty of hype around awards events.
But every one of those companies who claimed a prize last night offers a lesson to other telcos.
For example, the winner of the Best Carrier award, Softbank Mobile, has completely upended the Japanese wireless market. It doesn’t see itself as a mobile operator but as an internet company that came into the business to offer mobile data services. Its competitors are playing catchup.
Then there’s Hong Kong Broadband (HKBN), which has just launched a 1Gbps broadband service for $26 a month. It already offers 100Mbps for $13. While other countries are breaking their piggy banks to build NBNs, this small telco has already done so and has been profitable all along.
The competition from HKBN has helped drive rival PCCW into the content business, which last year was its biggest growth segment. PCCW’s NOW TV business has become an industry case study in how to use content to shore up legacy revenues.
Malaysian-based Axiata has executed extremely well on aggregating its operator subsidiaries and affiliates in ten countries, giving it the kind of scale it needs to survive.
HGC, which won the wholesale award, has differentiated itself in a supposedly commodity business by leveraging its parent’s 3G backhaul and roaming networks, and by building capacity where no-one else has.
And so on. If you think telcos can’t innovate, take a look at some of these Asian telcos. These companies don’t need to fear the future.