Mobile gap widens between developed and developing Asia

Nicole McCormick/Ovum
07 Jan 2011

A gap is opening up between mobile operators in Asia-Pacific, with major implications for investment and the management of market growth. This trend was clearly in evidence at the Mobile Asia Congress in Hong Kong, but has been a long time coming.

On the one hand, leading operators in developed markets such as NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, KT, China Mobile, and China Unicom are focusing more and more on new revenue growth opportunities for the industry. These Asian big guns are mindful of the threat of the over-the-top operators to the traditional mobile operator.

On the other hand, markets such as Thailand, Bangladesh, and Pakistan have not even issued 3G licenses, yet operators are desperately trying to roll out mobile Internet and woo governments with research showing that greater Internet penetration increases GDP.

Developed Asia goes for new revenues

New revenue streams are crucial to operators as the over-the-top players encroach on their territory. And there are no surprises on the list of proposed sources of new revenue: open application stores, cloud computing, and machine to machine (M2M) are being pursued across the developed markets of the region. Developing markets are way behind on this score.

Clearly, developed country operators have deep enough pockets to operate their own app stores and cloud computing services. These telco behemoths believe they can still do everything themselves without the need to partner, for instance, on cloud services. But it’s very early days, and we believe that partnering is essential and will lead to a more complex reality.

Disappointing was the lack of discussion on how operators intend to leverage their billing systems or even their call centre assets to win new business. Instead, we only heard about futuristic intelligent cars and homes, and augmented reality. Operators need to leverage their advantage in customer data to build up “digital profiles” of individual consumers to better market services too, but just how far can operators tap their social media data banks for details on consumers? No-one is sure.

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