HSPA does well in Asia, despite Wi-Fi boost

The "surprising" take-up of the technology in the region shows it is only poised to grow further, says Ericsson executive.

BARCELONA--In spite of the proliferation of Wi-Fi hotspots in countries in the region, HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access) is taking off, according to a market player.

Jan Signell, Ericsson's Southeast Asia president, said in an interview with ZDNet Asia that the simple reason for this is "convenience".

"Wi-Fi still has the challenge of overcoming spotty coverage, while HSPA over mobile networks has full coverage already," said Signell.

Jan Signell, president, Southeast Asia, Ericsson

Signell added that operators in Singapore have been surprised at the encouraging take-up rate of HSPA in the country.

He believes the country's penetration of fixed broadband lines ought to boost interest in HSPA, rather than discourage it.

"People used to say, when we had dial-up, that you'd spend less time on the computer when broadband comes, because it's quicker, so you can finish your work sooner.

"But the opposite happened, because it was so convenient doing more. This is exactly what HSPA will be like, as you extend users' mobile lives out of the home," said Signell.

The Asia-Pacific region sees a 14 to 15 percent growth in HSPA take-up, noted Signell.

And because of HSPA's headstart in the market, WiMax is not expected to dethrone HSPA as the mobile broadband network of choice either, he said.

Thomas Husson, Jupiter Research senior analyst, said recently that HSPA is driving mobile broadband, with WiMax not posing a threat "until at least the end of the decade".

One reason, said Husson, was the lower barrier to rolling out HSPA, compared to WiMax. 3.5G just requires a software upgrade to existing 3G networks, while WiMax needs dedicated network infrastructure.

Furthermore, the sale of HSPA-enabled mobile equipment is increasing, and is expected to be boosted by operator subsidies of the hardware. Lenovo also recently announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, plans to roll out HSPA-enabled laptops across its current portfolio offering.

The region's emerging markets are also looking to benefit from the technology. Sigve Brekke, CEO of Thai operator DTAC, said recently that 3G could be the country's answer to its low Internet penetration rate. "The only way the masses can get access to the Internet is through wireless," Brekke said.

Signell agrees, saying that the emerging markets have a voracious appetite for connectivity. A recent exercise by Ericsson to set up a cellular base station in a remote part of Sumatra saw traffic loaded within several hours of the base station going operational.

"This shows a pent-up demand for connectivity even in poor villages," said Signell.

Victoria Ho of ZDNet Asia reported from Mobile World Congress 2008 in Barcelona, Spain.


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