Alcatel-Lucent, a leading global innovator in the field of networking and communications technology said by the end of the decade Asia will need to invest USD 1.1 trillion in its telecom infrastructure to compete in the digital economy.
Alcatel-Lucent delivered the message at the World Economic Forum on East Asia 2012 in Bangkok.
Over the past five years, Asia has added 1.5 billion additional mobile subscribers. Yet still more than 25 percent of Asians live without basic mobile services. Over the next five years governments and business will need to add another 1.3 billion mobile subscribers to bridge the gap. What’s more, Asia’s networks will need to support growing traffic requirements and increasing population density in urban centres.
Urbanization in most Asian mega cities is increasing at an unprecedented speed manifested by the largest mass migration in human history, which in turn is straining infrastructure, social services, schools, and the environment. National Broadband initiatives are required to support urban growth and connect rural locations to the global economy. Asia Pacific is home to 12 national broadband projects. They aim to make affordable high speed broadband and wireless services universally accessible for people. Broadband connects people to the digital economy and makes things like banking, healthcare, education and commerce available.
The extent of national broadband projects varies. While Singapore and Malaysia are already providing world class telecom services, a huge infrastructure gap exists between them and nations like Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam. In Myanmar, for example, only 1.3% of the population currently subscribes to mobile voice services, compared to the neighbouring nations Laos (80%), Thailand (111%), and Malaysia (127%).
“Initiatives that combine socially relevant applications, network infrastructure, and affordable business models will provide 36% more GDP growth than a network only approach. To bridge the infrastructure gaps in Asia, smarter planning and cross sector collaboration are needed,” Rajeev Singh Molares, President of the Asia-Pacific Region for Alcatel-Lucent and Chairman of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Information Communications Technology said.
According to Singh Molares, “Building a strong digital infrastructure is an imperative for nations that want to compete in the digital economy. Thailand is a good example of a country with a broad approach.”
The Thai government has a US$2.6 billion ‘Smart Thailand’ strategy. The strategy combines a network build with a push to convert all 800 or so government services onto digital platforms, make its cities and provinces smarter, and put tablets in the hands of all its students. The network build is ambitious. It aims to change the number of Thais connected to a network from 33 percent today to 95 percent by 2020.
Alcatel-Lucent believes initiatives like Thailand’s are important to bridging the infrastructure gap that divides developed and developing nations in Asia. They are also important for ensuring more people from rich to poor gain access to the opportunities a digital economy provides.