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


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

Posts by Phil:

Mobile Broadband Driving Vietnam’s Internet Growth

After peaking in 2009 Vietnam’s fixed line market in Vietnam has seen a significant decline. Market penetration has fallen from 20.1% in 2009 to 10.5% in 2012 and 5.7% in 2016.

In the meantime, having come late to the internet, Vietnam is finally embracing the higher access speeds offered by the various broadband platforms. Although there has been a surge in subscriber numbers, fixed broadband remains a relatively small but expanding market segment. Most significantly, the arrival of mobile broadband has seen widespread access to faster internet speeds.

Vietnam’s mobile market has grown strongly over the last decade, evidence that the competition model the government has put in place, although with some limitations, has been working. At the same time, demand for new mobile services appeared to have dropped and growth had generally slowed. There has been a gradual shift to value added services, with the arrival of 3G and 3G+ and ahead of the launch of 4G.

The highly competitive nature of Vietnam’s mobile segment is due in no small part to it being opened up to new players, importantly including some with no involvement of the state-owned VNPT. As with most other Asian mobile markets, growth in Vietnam was boosted by the early introduction of prepaid mobile services and prepaid remains a vital component of the business today.

Viettel is the largest mobile operator in Vietnam with over 40% market share, followed by MobiFone VTNL-Vinaphone and Vietnamobile. The Vietnamese mobile market has shown moderate growth over the past few years, increasing from mobile penetration of 135% in 2013 to 147% in 2016. However over the past two years the market has reached a saturation point, as mobile growth slow significantly. Further slow growth is expected to continue over the next five years to 2021. By that time penetration is expected to reach over 150%.

The initial roll-out of fixed broadband services win Vietnam as followed by a strong surge in growth; however, broadband remained a small but expanding market segment. It needed a stronger market focus by the providers; this seemed to have finally happened with the arrival of mobile broadband. As with other developing markets in Asia, there has been major shift in Vietnam’s broadband market with the widespread adoption of mobile broadband, with lower tariffs, ready availability and the convenience of mobility being the big attractions. Mobile broadband has been growing strongly in Vietnam over the past five years. Penetration has increased from 14% in 2011 to 31% in 2014 and 43% in 2016. Further strong growth is predicted over the next five years to 2021.

The fixed broadband subscriber market in Vietnam has been growing moderately over the past few years from a relatively small base. Penetration has increased from 6% in 2013 to 8% in 2015 and 9% in 2016. Fixed broadband penetration is predicted to grow moderately over the next five years, reaching between 14% and 17% by 2021.

Incumbent operator VNPT has been leading Vietnam’s charge into the broadband market. It has doing this largely as part of its Next Generation Network (NGN) development.

In the meantime, the digital economy in Vietnam has been flourishing, although its reach may not be as great as government policy would wish. The government has been the driving force behind the country’s move into the age of the digital economy. It has been constantly emphasising the need to use e-commerce to improve the country’s economic competitiveness. The government has also been particularly active in the development of cyber laws, no doubt because of its deeply ingrained political culture of central control. On another related front, Vietnam is moving quickly towards the digitalisation of TV broadcasting. A strategy plan for conversion to digital TV should see the country’s television stations broadcasting completely digital by 2020.

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

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South Korea Continues as a Fixed Broadband World Leader

South Korea has one of the world’s most active telecommunications and Information Technology (IT) markets backed by strong support from the government. As well as the commitment of the government, the sector is boosted by an innovative private sector and a technologically savvy population. Spending on ICT and high-technology equipment helped lead a transformation of the economy. The government aims to transform the country into a knowledge-based information society in a ‘smart-age’.

By 2017, KT was still the largest telephone and fixed-line company. With declining revenues from its fixed-line services, the company has forged ahead with IPTV and LTE. Competition with LG U+ and SK Broadband had intensified on many fronts ranging from IPTV to VoIP.

South Korea’s mobile market has slow growth over the last few years due to a highly mature market. Organic growth by the three main mobile operators, together with the multitude of niche MVNOs will result in further growth to 2018 however growth rates will taper off further over the next few years as the market further matures. Market penetration reached 117% in 2016 and is predicted to reach between 119% and 122% by 2021 driven by the uptake of both 4G and 5G services. The split in mobile operator market share has remained relatively constant over the last two decades. LG Telecom however has made a marginal increase in market share over that time.

The mobile broadband market is highly mature in South Korea. Penetration has increased moderately over the past five years from 105% in 2012 to 111% in 2016. Prepaid voice services have not been particularly prevalent in South Korea, with the subscription model dominating the mobile market. South Korea has the world’s highest number of broadband services per capita. Korea’s policy emphasis has been to establish an Ultra Broadband convergence Network (UBcN) with 1Gb/s speeds on fixed lines and 10Mb/s on wireless.

Since breaking through the 10 million subscriber mark in 2002, subscriber growth has steadily increased, reaching over 20 million fixed broadband subscribers by 2016. Market penetration is predicted to continue to grow moderately over the next five years reaching over 50% by 2021, with a market penetration of 41%. Growth is being driven by an expected increase in converged solutions being offered such as IPTV and Smart Home services. Much will depend on the continuing strength of the economy in South Korea.

Internet use is widespread in South Korea with surveys even including children as young as three years of age. The internet has permeated all aspects of society and has made a significant contribution to education even at pre-school level. Internet penetration reached 91% by 2016.

The widespread adoption of the Internet in South Korea coupled with the continued pace of development has resulted in an exciting digital economy. This report also looks at various aspects of the digital economy in South Korea that support the drive to converged services. It includes information on e-commerce users, e-banking and e-government. It also contains information on internet usage patterns.

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

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Mobile Broadband Drives Growth in a lagging Laos telco market

After years of hesitancy, Laos has started to make significant progress in strengthening of its telecommunications infrastructure. As a result, it attracted more foreign investment into the sector and quickly saw the introduction of the latest telecom technologies. Although the regulatory role still resides within the ministry and is certainly not independent, there has been a growing appreciation of the role of the regulator in the telecom industry. The granting of accession to the WTO was an indication of progress in this respect.

Laos has had mixed success in the roll-out of infrastructure and delivery of services to the general population. Fixed line penetration in Laos remains relatively low via international comparisons. Fixed line penetration increased sharply from 1.7% in 2011 to 13.4% in 2014, however since then it has only increased marginally to 13.8% by 2016.

The provision of fixed internet services has been slow, this being a major concern in terms of the overall social and economic development of the country.

Internet penetration in Laos remains relatively low, however penetration has increased significantly over the past five years. Penetration increased from 8.8% in 2011 to 14.6% in 2014 and reached 19.5% by 2016. Fixed line broadband penetration is very low, although has grown strongly over the past five years from a very small base. Penetration has increased from 0.1% in 2011 to 0.8% by 2016. The market is forecast to reach between 5% and 8% by 2021.

The country’s mobile sector has been going through a difficult period. Although the mobile market had a long period of particularly sustained growth, especially after 2004/05, after peaking in 2011 mobile subscriber penetration in Laos has been declining. It declined from 66% in 2013 to 57% in 2016. The cellcos are now operating in an environment where the regulator is keeping a tight hold on pricing and open competition is in effect discouraged. A further problem emerging for the mobile operators is that network performance is deteriorating across the board. Unitel with 47% market share and Lao Telecom with 39% market share dominate the market.

In contrast there has been the rapid expansion of mobile broadband internet services on the back of the large scale launch of 4G services by the mobile operators. The introduction of fibre-based broadband, mainly in the rural areas is high on the government’s list of development priorities.

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

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Australia’s telco market grows slowly with mobile broadband driving growth

The overall telecoms services revenue reached over $42 billion in 2016, a growth of under 1% for the 12 months to June 2016. The overall market is predicted to grow at a stronger rate in 2017. The strongest growth is coming from the second tier providers, which grew at over 10% during that time period. The market incumbent Telstra still dominates the local telco landscape with well over 50% market share, however this market share is gradually declining. Prices for fixed-line and mobile voice services are being driven down by competition among operators, and by consumer reluctance to tolerate price increases, which engenders higher churn to other providers. Thus opportunities to drive revenue growth through higher consumer and business spend in the short term are limited to mobile data services.

Revenue for Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN, fixed-line voice and local access) services continue to decline for all telcos. This reflects changing consumer habits. On the one hand, operators are switching their legacy PSTN infrastructure to VoIP, while consumers are also making fewer fixed-line calls in preference to mobile calls and calls through platforms such as Skype. As the NBN progresses, the majority of voice traffic will be IP-based. Fixed-line broadband on the copper network will also decline gradually as fibre and fixed-wireless broadband services become more widely available, though the Coalition’s multi-technology NBN architecture, with its emphasis on VDSL with Fibre-to-the Node (FttN), will make greater use of copper than did Labour’s plan for a national Fibre-to-the-Premises(FttP) network.

While fixed-line telephony traffic and revenue is declining, the mobile broadband market is growing steadily. Though far outpaced by mobile data traffic, mobile data revenue is becoming a significant revenue stream for providers. While mobile voice remains the dominant source of revenue for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), it will soon be overtaken by mobile data revenue. In time, much of the voice traffic will be data packet via technologies such as Voice over Long-term Evolution (VoLTE).

The release of spectrum for LTE mobile broadband use, as well as and increased uptake by consumers and businesses, is easing helping to offset the decline in revenue from fixed-line services, though as user uptake increases so will the amount of bandwidth consumed. This requires additional investment among operators in spectrum assets and in upgraded mobile infrastructure.

From 2017 Telstra and Optus are better placed to capitalise on spectrum assets, having been able to make use of their 700MHz concessions since a year prior and so further develop their LTE subscriber base. Vodafone remains under some strain though it has seen encouraging revenue growth in recent quarters, supported by a revival of its subscriber base following a long period of decline. This change of fortune is a reflection of optimism among the company’s management as well as a return of consumer confidence following network upgrades. By early 2017 the operator claimed to provide 96% population coverage with its LTE infrastructure, and had deployed VoLTE services across its LTE network. It also aimed to add more than 100 base stations to its LTE network during 2017, focussed on underserved areas.

Pressure on pricing will continue to place a strain on operator revenue into fiscal 2017, with revenue from mobile data services failing to offset the sharpening decline in revenue from voice services. This is being exacerbated by the popularity of OTT services which has led to a fall in SMS traffic and revenue. In addition OTT services are helping to reduce voice traffic volume, while with VoLTE technologies voice traffic is rendered as data.

The three LTE networks operated by Optus, Telstra and Vodafone have developed rapidly during the past two years as these players strive to provide an infrastructure capable of meetings customer demand for mobile broadband services. Telstra continues to be a global leader in mobile services, being a partner with Ericsson in developing 5G. The two companies have demonstrated 1Gb/s capabilities over a commercial LTE network using carrier aggregation technology, and will use the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Queensland to trial a range of technologies including a prototype 5G.

Australia’s broadband sector is making improved progress in its migration to a multi-technology NBN. This has left considerable room for further development in the DSL and cable sectors, both of which are benefiting from the deployment of new technologies. The DSL sector is showing resilience as operators make greater use of VDSL, while the company responsible for the national rollout, nbn (NBN Co) has trialled G.fast technology and expects to provide services based on this upgrade during 2017. HFC is also gaining a new lease of life, with nbn also preparing to trial DOCSIS3.1 technology with a view to commercialising services by mid-2017.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Australia – Telecoms Industry – Statistics and Forecasts

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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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