Phil Harpur - Senior Analyst South, Central & South East Asia


Phil Harpur - Senior Analyst South, Central & South East Asia

Posts by Phil:

Mobile growth subsides in Turkmenistan in an increasingly mature market

Turkmenistan’s telecommunications market in this poor and predominantly rural country is relatively small. Its telecom services were considered to be the least developed of all the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries when they took shape. Since then, poor growth in telecom services can be attributed to a large extent to the slow development of the private sector and state control over most economic activities. Efforts to move towards a more market-oriented economy have been limited. In the telecoms sector there has been some progress, but this limited progress has in turn been overwhelmed by significant setbacks.

Turkmen Telecom has been the primary provider of telecommunication services, and through a subsidiary, TM-Cell, it has been operating a GSM mobile network in competition with a private mobile operator, MTS Turkmenistan, a subsidiary of the Russian-based MTS. Not surprisingly it has been the mobile services that have been dominating the expansion activity. Turkmenistan’s mobile market has experienced very strong growth over the last few years, however the market has moved closer to a saturation phase with a subsequent slowing in the growth rate. Market penetration reached 148% in 2016. Market penetration in the mobile market is predicted to reach between over 150% by 2021.

Turkmenistan has experienced a number of problems relating to communications technology. Despite recent efforts to upgrade the country’s telecom infrastructure, the telephone network remained poorly developed and many villages have been left without telephone services. Fixed line penetration over the past four years has been increasing slowly from a relatively small base. Penetration increased to only 12% in 2016.

The penetration of internet users in Turkmenistan has been growing moderately over the past four years from a relatively small base. Penetration has increased from 10% in 2013 to 12% in 2014, 15% in 2015 and 17% in 2016. Broadband access remains limited in scale and nature. Fixed broadband penetration reached less than 1% by 2016 and penetration is predicted to continue to remain low over the next five years to 2021.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Turkmenistan – Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Digital Media – Statistics and Analyses

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Slower growth in Tajikistan’s mobile market and fixed broadband penetration remains very low

Of all the former Soviet republics, Tajikistan’s telecommunications infrastructure was arguably the least developed. With a telecom network that was near total collapse, the government has had the daunting task of bringing it up to modern standards. Telecommunications has become one of the most dynamically developing sectors within the Tajikistan economy.

Tajikistan’s mobile sector has been on a strong growth path for over a decade. It continues to be the standout feature of the country’s telecom industry. Tajikstan’s mobile market has experienced relatively strong growth over the last five years. However as the market has moved closer to a saturation phase there has been an inevitable slowing in the growth rate. Market penetration reached 100% in 2016. Market penetration is to grow at a slower rate over the next five years to 2021. There are five major operators in the market: Tcell, Babilon Mobile, MegaFon, Tacom / Beeline and TK Mobile. Tcell has the largest overall market share with over 30%

Despite the recent launch of 4G/LTE services, the overall the telecom sector has continued to struggle. Tajikistan has one of the lowest fixed-line teledensities in the region and one of the lowest broadband levels of broadband penetration. Internet penetration stood at around 21% in Tajikistan by 2016, increasing from 17.5% in 2014 and 19% in 2015. Fixed line penetration in Tajikistan remains low at around 5.3%. It has been growing at a very slow rate over the past few years due to the dominance of wireless markets.

Fixed broadband subscriptions in Tajikistan stood at a lowly 0.07% penetration by 2016 increasing only marginally from 0.06% in 2011. Further slow growth in anticipated over the next five years as 4G rollouts continue and there is an increased dependence by consumers on wireless networks. Market penetration is predicted to remain low over the next five years to 2021.

Note: It is pointed out that there are considerable inconsistencies with the market statistics available for Tajikistan as well as the total absence of statistics for some indicators.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Tajikistan – Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Digital Media – Statistics and Analyses

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North Korea’s mobile subscriber market continues to grow strongly from a small base

North Korea possesses an underdeveloped yet growing market which has markedly improved in recent years as noted by growing mobile penetration. North Korea’s telecoms infrastructure developed largely through foreign investment, most significantly by Thai investors and more recently, Egyptian telecoms investment company Orascom Telecom Holdings.

The North Korean mobile market has seen strong growth over the past five years however from a very small base compared to other countries. Penetration has increased from 4.1% in 2011 to 11.2% in 2014, 12.9% in 2015 and 13.8% in 2016. Mobile subscriber penetration is predicted to increase to strongly over the next two years to 2018.

Communications with the outside world is restricted as everyday citizens are only able to receive news through government controlled channels such as TV and radio broadcasting as well as the government controlled Intranet. Technological improvements are evident, most notably through the introduction of high definition TV (HDTV) digital broadcasting in 2015.

The percentage of fixed lines in service in North Korea has been steadily declining over the past 10 years from 4.9% in 2007 to 4.7% in 2016.

North Korea has taken steps towards developing a digital economy as part of efforts to modernize its economy as well as a means to generate export income, especially in the field of IT services. Specific initiatives include domestic production of computers, mobile phones and a Linux operating system. E-education initiatives have been launched to improve access to learning while e-commerce sites have launched to improve convenience in ordering products and services.

North Korea’s mobile market is a major driver of telecoms infrastructure development. A 3G only network has been deployed providing almost universal population coverage, one of few countries in the world that is able to claim that its entire mobile market is comprised of 3G subscribers. However Orascom, the majority owner of North Korean mobile operator Koryolink, revealed in late-2015 it had effectively lost control of its North Korean operations.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: North Korea – Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband – Statistics and Analyses

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Asian mobile subscriber growth begins to subside in larger markets

This market report provides a comprehensive overview of the mobile network operator and MVNO telecom market across the various economies of Asia. The list of operators ranges from the giant China Mobile with more than 850 million subscribers right through to a number of much smaller operators with only a few thousand subscribers each. And of course there are the mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).

The focus of this report is on the operators within their individual national markets. In addition to these individual operators there are those companies such as SingTel, Vodafone, and Axiata (formerly Telekom Malaysia International) that have built a substantial presence around the Asian region beyond their own domestic market through their shareholdings in operators in multiple other markets. While this aspect of the regional operations is not discussed in any detail, it is mentioned in passing in the relevant country reviews.

The telecom market across Asia has an estimated total of 4 billion mobile subscribers by end 2016. This sector of the overall market continues to experience moderate growth; however, in the more developed markets, growth is shifting away from a focus on subscriber numbers towards the expansion of new generation platforms and increased data usage driven by value-added services and increased ARPUs.

Whilst there are still developing markets continuing to grow their mobile subscriber base at high annual rates, total market growth has eased considerably in the last few years. This is not surprising given that a significant number of markets have well and truly saturated over the last year or so.

Macau is the leading country in Asia in terms of overall mobile penetration with a penetration of 326% in 2016. Hong Kong takes second place with mobile penetration of 227% in 2016. Maldives in third place has penetration of 220% followed by Kazakhstan in fourth spot with 180%. Singapore has the fifth largest market in terms of mobile penetration with penetration reaching 149% in 2016.

Mobile broadband subscriptions are growing rapidly. While mobile and fixed will always exist in parallel, there is no doubt that with a faltering fixed network and an excellent mobile network, mobile will give fixed a run for its money.

However the reality for the success of mobile broadband is that the network will rely more and more on fibre. In the end most mobile stations will have to be connected to a fibre optic network in order to cope with the volume of traffic.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Asia – Mobile Network Operators and MVNOs

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North Asian countries lead the fixed broadband market but other Asian nations catching up

This market report provides a comprehensive overview of the fixed broadband and internet segment of the telecom market across the various economies of Asia. Asia makes a strong claim to be leading the world when it comes to the general development of broadband internet. While mobile broadband is already a large and fast growing segment of the region’s internet market, fixed broadband continues to underpin the delivery of internet services to households and businesses. Fibre-based fixed broadband services have taken on a major significance and are shaping to define the broadband market of the future.

South Korea and Japan are the leading two countries in Asia with regards to internet penetration with penetration reaching 91% in 2016. Behind South Korea and Japan are Singapore (84%), Taiwan (83%), Azerbaijan (79%), and Hong Kong (79%). China leads in terms of overall number of internet users in 2016  (730 million), followed by India (290 million), Japan (115 million) and Indonesia (63.1 million).

The expansion of broadband was for a long time a phenomenon limited to the developed economies, with narrowband dial-up access being the norm in the majority of the poorer developing countries of the region. However this has been gradually changing. In those economies, there is now increasing access to broadband, both DSL and cable modem platforms have both proved popular, with DSL establishing a clear advantage. More recently, we have seen the arrival of FttX as an alternative platform for broadband access in Asia. There also continues to be considerable activity in the broadband markets across Asia including amongst the many number of smaller countries such as Azerbaijan, Maldives and Macau.

China leads the fixed broadband market in terms of both overall subscribers and market penetration. Subscribers reached 213 million in 2016 and market penetration reached 53%. Although China boasts the largest number of broadband connections in the world, annual growth rates are subsiding as housing penetration reaches levels indicative of market maturity. China Telecom and China Unicom are the largest suppliers of fixed broadband. Fixed broadband levels in China are expected to continue rise more gradually due to a confluence of factors that includes telecom operators seeking revenue growth, a government seeking to reach ambitious targets, the increasing wealth of end users and digital media giants seeking new audiences.

South Korea holds second place with fixed broadband subscriber penetration of 41% in 2016. The move towards faster speeds and becoming full-service operators is expected to drive further growth. FttX deployments have increased as operators try to gain customers through bundled services such as high-definition IPTV. Broadband subscription rates in South Korea are low at less than US$30 per month for speeds over 100Mb/s.

Hong Kong takes third place with fixed broadband subscriber penetration of 32% in 2016. Broadband subscriber growth in Hong Kong has flattened due to high fixed household broadband penetration and increased product substitution due to higher speed mobile broadband services based on HSPA and LTE. However, fixed broadband services will continue to grow based on the sheer volume of data traffic as the market shifts from:

  • Connecting people to connecting devices;
  • Increasing usage of cloud services;
  • Increasing bandwidth demands from higher quality HD and 4K streaming services.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Asia – Fixed Broadband Market – Statistics and Analyses

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