'Big screen' devices to lead APAC biz broadband growth

Mobile enterprise broadband connections via "big-screen" devices such as laptops and tablets will grow "considerably" in region, although smartphones will still dominate, says new report.

The number of mobile broadband connections made via "big-screen" devices, such as laptops and tablets, for business use in Asia-Pacific is set to "increase considerably" over the next four years, according to a new forecast by Ovum.

Enterprise connections by this segment of computing devices will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40 percent, to reach 32 million in 2015 from 5.9 million in 2010, the research firm said Monday in a statement.

Nonetheless, handsets--particularly smartphones--will continue to dominate enterprise mobile connections in the region, reaching 83 million by 2015. Broadband connectivity via smaller-screen devices, however, is expected to have a smaller CAGR of 10 percent between 2010 and 2015, Ovum added.

In the statement, Ovum senior analyst Claudio Castelli attributed the rise of enterprise mobile broadband connections to an "increasingly mobile" workforce in Asia, and the "intensifying need" for employees to be able to access data wherever they are. He also calculated that enterprise mobile connections in Asia will generate US$29 billion in total revenue by 2015, with majority of the growth coming from data services as mobile voice prices commoditize.

Castelli told ZDNet Asia in a separate phone interview that it is "difficult" to predict if the number of big-screen mobile enterprise connections will eventually outnumber those via handsets. Just as Apple disrupted the market with the iPad slate, another vendor could unveil a "novelty" product to influence the number of connections, he pointed out.

Ovum's prediction on the rise of mobile broadband connections in Asia corroborates with its April report, which forecasted that the region's mobile broadband market revenue will hit US$108 billion by 2015, from US$43 billion in 2010. It also stated "small-screen" devices are "eating away" growth opportunities for big-screen devices in Asia, because the latter segment is less affordable especially for users in emerging economies. Another contributing cause is an expectation by consumers to access the mobile Web or services such as Facebook even on lower-end smartphones or feature phones.

Increased workforce mobility brings new challenges
Castelli also observed in Monday's report that many organizations find mobility "increasingly difficult to manage" due to employees increasingly wanting to bring their own devices, such as smartphones and tablets, to the workplace and connect them to the company's network.

According to him, enterprises in Asia, more so than in other regions, allow mobile workers to use personal equipment and reimburse them accordingly for usage. While this means greater user flexibility, there is greater pressure on IT departments in terms of having to manage associated risks, as well as additional costs to the enterprise, Castelli pointed out.

Analysts have cautioned in a previous ZDNet Asia report that apart from phone bill reimbursements, companies which allow employees to use their own devices for work also need to consider the implications of mobile security and privacy as the line between corporate and personal smartphone usage blurs.