APAC's $729B Mobile Broadband Opportunity

HONG KONG -- Mobile Asia Congress 2010 -- The GSM Association (GSMA) today unveiled a study that identified a potential boost to the Asia/Pacific region's gross domestic product of US$729 billion during the 2014-2020 period should the region's governments allocate so-called digital dividend (700MHz) spectrum to mobile broadband operators in a speedy and harmonized fashion. (See GSMA Calls For APAC Harmonization.)

The Association, based on research undertaken by The Boston Consulting Group, believes that if 700MHz spectrum is allocated for mobile broadband use across Asia/Pacific in a coordinated manner, then it could create nearly 2 million new jobs across the region, provide a tax revenue boost to government coffers of around $131 billion in the 2014-2010 timeframe, be the catalyst for the creation of more than 1 million new businesses, and enable many life-changing new services (mobile banking, remote learning, and so on) to be made available to people in rural and remote areas.

According to Tom Phillips, the GSMA's chief government and regulatory affairs officer, it's not a matter of whether 700Mhz spectrum will be made available by governments and regulators across the region -- he believes it will happen -- but a matter of when and how. "Harmonization, transparency, and timelines with urgency" are the critical factors, he told Light Reading Asia at a press briefing here today.

It's a case of "wait and see," though. GSMA executives and representatives of operators such as Malaysia's Axiata Group Berhad and Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN) (which has multiple operations across Asia/Pacific) are all "hopeful" that governments and regulators will recognize the benefits highlighted in the report and act upon them. But the report doesn't include any indication as to whether individual national governments have shown a willingness to move swiftly on the allocation of 700MHz spectrum for mobile broadband use (although Australia and New Zealand appear to be ready to lead the way), and even the regulatory affairs representatives of the operators present at today's press briefing couldn't cite any positive indicators from their markets. Basically, no one knows if the benefits highlighted in the report can be achieved.

Why this matters
That making mobile broadband services ubiquitous in a coordinated, harmonized manner will help national economies grow and narrow the digital divide isn't really up for debate any more -- there are many cases that link increased broadband penetration to GDP growth and greater economic opportunities for the masses. And for countries such as India, that have stated their intention to drive broadband penetration as high as possible to help boost economic growth, any guidance as to how that can be achieved can only be helpful.

What is up for debate, though, is whether regional, harmonized, coordinated spectrum allocation is feasible. The likely outcome is that regional coordination will be a step too far. However, even if a handful of nations take the early lead and deliver at least some of the economic benefits highlighted in the GSMA report, it will be of some benefit to those markets, help promote economies of scale across the supply base, and encourage other markets to jump on board.

For more
Digital dividend spectrum is already in use in the US and Europe:

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

amitagar989 12/5/2012 | 4:18:18 PM
re: APAC's $729B Mobile Broadband Opportunity

I think overall it sounds great and will definitely give an immense push to overall economy across APAC. But what should be cautioned is who will fund the investment to see this kind of value added in the region. We have already seen in other regions the industry which is funding it is not directly adding value and value is consumed and added by other players. Not bad overall but bad for the telco industry which is not getting its return on investment. I think there has to be right economics in place for all the players in the value chain to benefit out of it. Convergys with its thought leadership around this topic is helping telcos understand how they can add value in this evolution, make appropriate investments and still make profitable returns on it. Please visit convergys.com/smartrevenue for more details.

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