Growing interest in mobile broadband, wider device choice and applications such as push e-mail, are driving demand for mobile data services in the Asia-Pacific region, say industry players.
Jeff Teh, a senior industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said the demand for such services has been growing across all Asia-Pacific markets.
"Most notably, markets that have introduced 3G services have seen significant increases in mobile data revenues," Teh told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.
"In particular, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand, have shown strong growth in data revenues, as a percentage of total mobile revenues. This is largely due to increasing interest in mobile broadband data plans," he said, noting that mobile data revenues accounted for 27.8 percent of overall mobile revenues in 2008, compared to 16.3 percent in 2003.
In Singapore, said Wong Soon Nam, vice president of consumer marketing at SingTel, the telco's mobile broadband customer base has been increasing steadily. "During the quarter from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 2008, our mobile broadband subscriber base grew 25 per cent to 144,000," Wong told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail.
Chan Kin Hung, StarHub's head of personal solutions and advanced multimedia services, said consumers today can choose from a wider range of mobile devices to access the Internet. Coupled with the growing popularity of broadband among notebook users, this has driven more consumers in Singapore to sign up for mobile data and broadband service packages, Chan said in an e-mail interview.
Missing 3G not a barrier
According to Teh, demand for mobile data services is also growing in countries that have yet to roll out 3G services, though at a much slower rate.
In these markets, growth is driven mainly by the continuing popularity of SMS as a mode of communications, he said.
According to Wong, SingTel's mobile broadband customers are accessing data services such as mobile e-mail and surfing on-the-go, and applications such as navigation, fleet tracking and management services.
Chan noted that an increasing number of StarHub's mobile users also frequently access the Internet for instant messaging services, social networking applications as well as streamed mobile content such as the Barclays Premier League and YouTube videos, from their phones.
He added that push e-mail is an important mobile data service among corporate users.
"These days, business deals are not always conducted in boardrooms. Key decisions are often made when people are on the move," Chan said. "We are also seeing more people accessing office e-mail, streaming video and surfing the Internet from mobile phones."
In actual revenues, mobile data revenues for the Asia-Pacific region in 2008 totaled US$65.1 billion, compared to US$21.9 billion in 2003, according to Frost & Sullivan.