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Wireless broadband technology trends in Malaysia

Posted: 06 Jun 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:broadband technology? IPTV? wireless broadband? 4G?

Malaysia is one of the first few countries that adopted 4G technology to increase its broadband service availability for its population back in 2008. This year's Broadband & IPTV Asia conference held in Kuala Lumpur looked at the various broadband service opportunitieswired and wireless wirelessin Malaysia and Southeast Asia.

Commenting on the uniqueness of the Malaysian market, James Angelone, CEO of National Broadband Perspective, Malaysia said, "Unlike in Korea where wireless structures are always trying to catch up with wired line infrastructure, the wireless [infrastructure] stands in this market along with wired structures. It doesn't diminish the need of these infrastructures but it does slow them down. When you can get 30Mb/sec with wireless, you don't need to push the wire. I look into the economies of network and see that when I get to a certain growth level, running this expensive fiber becomes more economical."

He also added that ultimately the operators will run out of spectrum .They would want to get out of the air into the ground where it's cheaper to manage it.

Michael Lai

Lai: While the data continues to go up, the spectrum is getting smaller. The demand for data continues to grow.

Comparing the different technology choices available (FFTx, DSL, WiMAX, LTE,HSPA) Paul Summer of Analysys Mason said, "Wired line technologies give better bandwidth but take longer to deploy. We have seen in quite a few markets that TD-LTE growth was high when wired network was not available."

He also added that to deploy Next Generation Access (NGA), fiber broadband across the market, you will have to offer a mix of technologies, deploy fiber network where it is viable then deploy wireless NGA where fixed networks might not be commercially viable.

Packet One Networks, Malaysia (P1) the first 4G provider in Malaysia was referred to in the above context. The P1 network started in 2008 and has grown from zero to $371 million (RM1.3 billion) with over 388K subscribers and 53 percent population coverage in west Malaysia with Intel Corp. and Qualcomm Inc. as their strategic investors and partners. P1 claims to have one of the world's largest deployments of 802.16e 2.3GHz WiMAX network in Malaysia, next only to Korea.

Michael Lai, CEO of P1, firmly believes in the prevalence of perpetual data tsunami with the shift in the role of handset from voice to data services, the increasing pervasiveness of the devices and the demands of the multiscreen world.

Asia Pacific's, average Internet traffic per user per month in 2011 was at 9.4GB/month according to a report by Informa Telecoms & Media. The average P1 subscriber supposedly got 17GB/month, which is more than what is targeted for 2013 (16.6GB/month), according to the same report. The prediction for 2015 Internet traffic in Asia Pacific stands at 31.2GB/month.

Talking about the increasing demand for bandwidth in wireless technology, Lai said, "One of the scarcest resources in the world is actually spectrum in the air. The land is also scarce but not like air. While the data continues to go up, the spectrum is getting smaller. The demand for data continues to grow. So the operator has to collaborate and compete whenever necessary to meet the requirement."

P1 has recently signed an agreement with Telekom Malaysia (TM) for reselling TM's High Speed Broad band (HSBB) network making a plunge into fiber giving the users a higher bandwidth.

According to Summer, "For wireless NGA the main driver is the increasing penetration of smartphones across the globe. In Singapore alone 80-90 percent of all new devices being sold are smartphones. The increasing use of smartphone devices on the broadband networks is putting a lot of load on the bandwidth requirement. As a result, a lot of wireless operators are looking for offloading traffic on the wired, fixed network."

Summer also discussed the data of Ofcom, U.K. According to Ofcom, 69 percent of smartphone owners in the U.K. surf the Internet, 67 percent access and send emails, 55 percent access social networking services, 47 percent have downloaded applications and 38 percent watch online videos on their smartphones. Digi Telecommunications, a mobile service provider in Malaysia quotes 5MB/month of data usage for Nokia N70 users and 700MB/month for Iphone users.

Citing examples of P1 as a WiMaX service evolving into TD-LTE, Summer said, "The expected end user speed is quite lower than what you see in fixed network, making it difficult for you to deliver the kind of services you would want to deliver, particularly running HDTV on these networks. It is a shared medium, so if there are a lot of active users in a cell, the speed goes down rapidly."

Analysys Mason also has a report stating that there is an increasing amount of mobile data usage per handset. The forecast in the emerging markets is a rise from 100MB/month in 2012 to 300MB/month in 2016 whereas the worldwide market will shoot up to 900MB/month in2016 from nearly 250MB/month in 2012.

The Analysys Mason report also suggest that on the wireless side of NGA the operators are looking into managing traffic and cost, which includes offloading the load onto fixed network, tier pricing, monetizing the data flow, buying spectrum as it becomes available and deploying LTE both as a traffic management option and a service management option, upgrading from HSPA to HSPA+.

The number of TD-LTE takers has gone up in the last 18 months, Summer said. This will continue as spectrum is made available by regulators, as LTE equipments prices come down and more and more devices get are integrated with the LTE chip sets, he noted.

- Pallavi Bhargava





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