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Motorola Solutions rides Asia's urbanization wave

Network equipment vendor rolls on multiyear modernization plans for public safety and metro systems, among others, for continued growth in burgeoning Asian markets such as China and India, says company exec.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

As people become more affluent in rapidly growing Asian markets including China and India, government spending on areas such as public safety and train systems is likely to increase--providing opportunities that Motorola Solutions is looking to tap for continued growth.

Phey Teck Moh, corporate vice president at Motorola Solutions Asia-Pacific, noted that as Asia's economies expand, a bigger middle class will emerge and this group of people will demand better public safety and transport systems, to name a few focus areas. This, in turn, will force governments to improve either the equipment used or increase the number of devices to support the demand, Phey said in an interview with ZDNet Asia.

He cited the example of walkie-talkies used by the police, where one device is shared by 7 to 10 officers in emerging markets. With urbanization, the number of officers sharing one radio set will be reduced to 3 to 4 policemen, he said.

Metro systems, he added, is another growth area Motorola Solutions is eyeing. According to Phey, China has approved and is deploying 58 railway lines, with plans to lay out another 100 to 150 lines in the next 10 years.

A report by Chinese news agency, South China Morning Post, said the Chinese government has pledged 1.25 trillion yuan (US$189.75 billion)--stretching from 2011 to 2015--to build 2,200 kilometers of rail lines in 16 cities.

Phey said: "Every mega first-tier city is growing its second- and third-tier cities, and it's not just in public safety and transport. Retail and healthcare industries are also expected to grow in the process."

Cashing in on enterprise mobility
The Singapore-based Motorola executive noted that while consumer mobile devices for white-collar workers are currently hogging the limelight where enterprise mobility is concerned, "true" enterprise mobility is actually more keenly felt in the blue-collar workers' domain. These sectors include logistics, delivery and repair, among others, he said.

Citing figures from research firm IDC, Phey said the number of mobile workers accessing enterprise systems worldwide will top 1 billion this year and reach 1.2 billion by 2013. Asia-Pacific markets will contribute the most significant gains, although the United States will remain home to the world's most mobile workforce, he said.

With more workers becoming mobile, it is imperative that ruggedized mobile devices they use "function properly over a long period of time, are compatible with existing apps even as the operating system is refreshed constantly and that security features are in place", he said.

He noted that 15 percent to 20 percent of non-ruggedized consumer devices fail in their first year of operation. "Field devices such as mobile scanners are very hot now and this is because of the ongoing workforce mobilization trend," he added.

According to Phey, Motorola Solution's business proposition is now clearer following the split from its mobile devices business on Jan. 4.

It now has a "strategic flexibility" that allows the company to conduct relevant research and development projects, and attract investors that appreciate its long-term, low-volatility growth. In fact, it will be investing US$1 billion globally in R&D projects that are focused on the company's core capabilities of offering "mission- and business-critical" communication networks combined with applications and services, he stated.

Lawsuit roils on
Asked if its business is affected by the lawsuit initiated by Chinese networking company Huawei Technologies, Phey said no. Motorola does not play in the same service provider spaces of selling network equipment as Huawei, and it does not have sensitive information to pass on to Nokia Siemens, he explained.

However, Phey's comments came before the Chinese company gained the upper-hand when a U.S. court granted it a temporary restraining order. Huawei had earlier sued Motorola to prevent it from passing on confidential information about Huawei's technology to Nokia Siemens, which is attempting to buy over Motorola's wireless networks business in a deal worth about US$1.2 billion.

Motorola since 2000 has been reselling Huawei radio access gear for GSM and UMTS wireless networks. As part of this relationship, Motorola employees are trained to sell and troubleshoot Huawei's wireless products. Nokia Siemens also sells wireless products that rival Huawei's offerings.

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