S'pore mobile players target region

Singapore's mobile services providers target users in developing markets across Asia-Pacific by bridging gap between high- and low-end devices.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

BARCELONA--A group of Singapore-based mobile services providers are targeting Asia-Pacific developing markets by bridging the gap between high- and low-end devices.

Five-year-old Singapore company, Clearhub, provides a service called ringEmail, which allows businesses to provide push e-mail capabilities on their employees' phones, including basic models.

By bridging this functionality gap, Michelle Chan, Clearhub's managing director, told ZDNet Asia the service saves companies and users from having to purchase higher end push e-mail-capable phones.

"Apart from top executives who carry BlackBerries and smartphones, this second tier of users also wants access to e-mail. This is an untapped market," Chan explained, speaking at the International Enterprise Singapore booth here, at Mobile World Congress. The annual conference and exhibition features various mobile technologies and gathers mobile operators and equipment providers worldwide.

Chan added that the company sees potential for the service in developing countries, where users are increasingly connected but have a higher proportion of basic phone models.

"Thailand has the region's largest Hotmail user base," she said, pointing to ringEmail's capability to connect users to the Microsoft-owned Web mail service. Clearhub last year launched the service with Spanish telco, Movistar, in Chile.

Chan said the Singapore company is currently in talks with other telcos in the region.

Another local company, Nano Equipment, is looking to market rich-media platforms at a similar user base. Nano makes a number of video service platforms, targeted at mainstream phone users, that will work on any device that can provide access to 3G connectivity.

Liew Kong Nam, the company's managing director, said it provides a hosted video-on-demand service to industry players such as operators and content producers, aimed at quickly enabling them to roll out mobile TV services.

Last year, Singaporean broadcaster MediaCorp, employed Nano's technology to push its TV show, "The Little Nyonya", on 3G devices.

Some companies, while initially targeting low-end device users in rural areas, found their products gained traction with mature segments of the market.

Bill Crawley, Bubble Motion's Asia-Pacific vice president of sales, told ZDNet Asia the company's flagship product BubbleTalk, was initially launched by Indian telco, Bharti Airtel, for users in rural areas. The "voice SMS" service was deemed more appropriate for these users because it was positioned as a more user-friendly method of communication, compared to SMS.

"However, the initial push was seen in urban areas, with the younger, more educated crowd," said Crawley.

Following this, the company now intends to take the service to operators in mature markets. "There was phenomenal growth in usage traffic since the launch," Crawley said. "We are going to see more partnerships with operators in developed markets." There are currently 80 million BubbleTalk subscribers in India, he added.

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

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