Asian mobile alliance adds technology members

Ericsson, Motorola and ZTE are the latest technology players to join the Bridge Mobile Alliance, an Asia-based body that drives cross-border services.

SINGAPORE--The Bridge Mobile Alliance (BMA) has welcomed Ericsson, Motorola and Chinese telco network equipment maker ZTE, as its new members in a move that will give the group's telco members access to the latest technology in the market, according to its chief executive.

"For the first time, the alliance has extended its membership to include global technology partners. Previously, it was only open to the top-tier mobile operators in Asia-Pacific," said Patrick Sim, CEO of BMA. Founded in November last year, the Asia-based group builds and maintains mobile infrastructure to deliver cross-border mobile services.

The addition of the three technology companies to the alliance brings its total membership base to 11. The founding telco members include Airtel, CSL, Globe Telecom, Maxis, SingTel, Optus, Taiwan Mobile and Telkomsel. Together, these companies have a combined subscriber base of 69 million cellphone users.

Sim expects the addition of technology members to have "far-reaching impact on the Asian mobile market". "Member operators will be able to partner with global technology players to pioneer the development of Asian-centric mobile technology and services," he said.

The Asia-Pacific market, he noted, is a highly fragmented one with diverse standards and technology development. "This results in the lack of common standards and service platforms that enables interoperability of mobile devices and services," he noted. Mobile equipment makers are also unlikely to develop customized products for this region because of Asia's diversity, he said.

"Asia, unlike Europe and the United States, is too fragmented to reap (the benefits of) economies of scale," he explained. "Many technology players would cater to global volumes rather than customize their products for a fragmented Asian market." With the new technology members on board, Sim believes the alliance can now command a bigger clout and resolve this predicament.

Deeper alliance
To drive collaboration between the technology and telco members, Sim said that BMA has set its sight on a myriad of regional initiatives which include 3G services, mobile commerce for cross-border mobile payment, and a content portal for music streaming and mobile gaming.

"Unlike their European counterparts, many operators in Asia do not have the economies of scale to drive the development of customized services for their 3G networks," he said. "There is also a need to provide attractive content for users to migrate from 2G to 3G."

The alliance, he added, will provide the critical mass and collaborative platform to provide affordable and relevant 3G devices and services in Asia.

Alan Nicklos, general manager of Motorola Southeast Asia, said content will play a big part in spearheading 3G adoption. "It’s important that we work with key (telco) partners to develop content, and look at ways to enrich the experience for end-users."

For ZTE, joining the alliance is part of the company's strategy in expanding to markets outside China, said Pang Shengqing, vice president of ZTE. "The BMA's initiative on 3G services is also in line with our own research and development in that space," he added.

However, the new association will not affect the company's relationship with telcos outside the alliance. "If any, it will only allow ZTE to satisfy the global needs of major telcos," Pang said.