The common adage goes – the early bird gets the worm.
Several operators are taking this piece of advice greatly to heart, and zeroing their resources on the potentially lucrative markets of the greater Mekong subregion - Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.
With plenty of attention already focused on giants India and China, this low-profile region in Southeast Asia has often been overlooked by operators, but not for much longer. The influx of foreign banks, manufacturing giants and SMEs has prompted fixed line operators to set up shop in the subregion.
Hutchison Global Communications (HGC), the fixed-line arm of Hong Kong-based Hutchison Telecommunications, extended its network and data services to the five countries early last year, and now provides connectivity between the countries.
According to HGC, its network now offers at least two routes between each country and other destinations, via a combination of submarine and terrestrial cables.
HGC’s senior vice president of international business Andrew Kwok said the company enjoyed first-mover advantage in the region, in the form of higher premiums compared to developed markets. The company had first ventured into the subregion through terrestrial cable connectivity between Vietnam, Hong Kong and mainland China. HGC subsequently provided Myanmar’s first IP-VPN service in 2008.
The greater Mekong subregion has also not escaped the notice of NTT Communications. The firm’s EVP of global strategy Katsumi Nakata told TelecomAsia that NTT Communications foresees future demand coming from Vietnam and Thailand, and would accordingly strengthen its network to cater to demand from the region.
Fixed line connectivity to the region is expected to be complemented by satellite, such as SingTel’s recently launched ST-2 craft, which counts among its customers a foreign bank operating in Vietnam.