Asia mobile subscribers totalled 820 million in 2005, a 20.5% increase on 2004, according to Business Monitor International’s report on 14 key Asia markets. Of this figure, an estimated 59 million were 3G mobile subscribers in 2005, representing a 57.3% rise on 2004, and just over 7% of all mobile subscribers in the region.
Prompted by some of the world’s fastest growing mobile markets including India, Vietnam, Pakistan, China and Indonesia, BMI forecasts the total number of mobile subscribers in the region to reach 1.75 billion by 2010, amounting to a penetration rate of just over 50%. BMI estimates that the number of 3G subscribers will be in excess of 300 million at the end of 2010 for penetration of just below 10%. Approximately one in five mobile subscribers in the region will therefore have access to a 3G network.
At the end of 2005 3G services were available in just half the countries surveyed – Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Progress has been slow throughout the region with all but 3 million 3G customers in the region coming from Japan and South Korea. However, operators are likely to launch commercially in Indonesia and the Philippines later this year. In China, the government will announce its 3G licensing plans as soon as the latest testing on domestic standard TD-SCDMA is complete.
“The 3G market in Asia has been very much held together by the sophisticated consumer markets of Japan and South Korea, with nearly half of Japan’s 90mn mobile subscribers having access to a 3G network. However, with the Chinese government likely to award 3G licenses during H2 2006, growth should be rapid for mobile multimedia solutions in general, especially in the build up to the 2008 Olympic Games. We forecast for China alone 132mn 3G subscribers in 2010,” commented Nick Jotischky, head of Industry Content at Business Monitor International.
Mobile growth will surge fastest over the next five years in the developing markets of India (annual average growth of 80%), Vietnam (62%), Pakistan (38.5%), China (22%) and Indonesia (19.5%). 3G growth will be relatively slow in India, Vietnam and Pakistan, however, with operators unlikely to launch commercially before 2007/08. In Asia’s more advanced markets of Japan, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, mobile growth is much slower, at no more than 2%, and operators are keen to invest in 3G networks in an effort to increase falling ARPU rates.
“Operators in Asia’s more developed markets have two problems. Mobile customer levels are close to saturation, and countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia have actually reached saturation with 100% + penetration, and so there is little room for subscriber growth. Added to this, the prepaid market is so strong that ARPU rates are suffering and profits falling,” comments Jotischky. However, a sign of relief does come from the fact that operators are beginning to see an increase in data revenues, a healthy sign for the future of 3G.