|Asia-Pacific II 2007
|A new voice for tomorrow’s Asia
|Phey Teck Moh
|President, CEO and Director
Phey Teck Moh is the President, CEO and Director of Pacific Internet. He has 20 years of leadership and management experience in the information technology, IT, and telecommunications industries. Mr Phey was previously with Motorola, where he served in various senior roles in the Asia-Pacific region including Asia-Pacific Vice President and General Manager for its Government and Enterprise Mobility Solutions business. Mr Phey was also a member of Motorola’s worldwide steering committees for radio products and wireless broadband. Prior to Motorola, Mr Phey rose through the ranks at the former Compaq to become its youngest general manager in Asia. Mr Phey is a Member of the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation, SiTF, and Chairman of its iX2007 Committee. Mr Phey has a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Engineering degree from the National University of Singapore and a Diploma in Marketing Management from the Singapore Institute of Management.
In much of the Asia-Pacific region it is still a struggle to provide basic voice and data services to much of the population. New technologies, especially carrier-grade VoIP, promise to change this situation. Wireless broadband can provide high-quality, low-cost access in both urban and rural regions by reducing both the cost to roll out infrastructure and the operational costs. Operators, however, will have to re-think their traditional business strategies and trade their traditional cash cows for Internet-based, value-added services.
However complicated service offerings, value-added extras and pricing plans may get, customers will always need voice. In an industry gripped by convergence fever and the mad drive to do more, this is a sobering thought. One of the first fruits of the age of convergence is the blurring line between the roles of data operators and voice carriers. What once were distinctly separate networks, delivering distinctly separate services, are now becoming melting pots of crossover products. Whether shopping electronically from your mobile phone or calling family long distance on the computer, the customer is becoming more accustomed to the idea of a converged operator. Despite the growing number of good-to-have consumer and enterprise applications that are being delivered across this new converged network, closer inspection reveals that the customer’s need is deceptively simple – quality voice and connectivity services. The customer need is deceptive because these services need to be delivered securely, reliably and with high availability even when on the move. There is definitely a market for converged operators in the Asia-Pacific but, for the moment, it is imperative that operators be able to deliver on both of these basic propositions first, and do it well so that what goes on in the network layer becomes invisible to the customer. The Asia-Pacific region, with a population upward of four billion, is home to over 60 per cent of the world’s population, spread across a diverse economic and technological landscape. Discounting the few truly mature first-world markets, much of the region still struggles to provide basic voice and data services. However, the largest of these markets, including China, the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia and the Philippines, are experiencing strong, sustainable economic growth. This growth will bring about several important changes in the near term. Quite logically, economic expansion will accelerate and sustain demand for voice and data infrastructures domestically. Being late to the table has some benefits in this case. Asia-Pacific markets stand to benefit from the more recent technological advances in delivery infrastructure, without the problems that arise from an extensive legacy deployment. In many cases, the possibility of bypassing fixed network infrastructure for last mile and backhaul is under serious consideration in light of the potential for wireless converged technologies, like WiMAX, to serve both urban and rural communities at a fraction of fixed network costs. Simpler, more cost-effective infrastructure, backed by political and economic will, can bring widespread service availability in a matter of years instead of decades and provide the fuel for further economic growth. This evolving landscape stimulates growth in both connectivity and voice markets, and also in distance voice, as investment and people flow into, and out of, each market. This creates a tremendous opportunity for operators in Asia-Pacific. Voice over IP, VoIP, technology is bringing the cost of delivering both domestic and international voice down, and can reap huge rewards if data operators are able to execute well on this strategic service. Prediction 1: The rise in prominence of carrier-grade, secure and highly-available VoIP will simplify infrastructure requirements and bring down the operational cost per user. The proposition for VoIP in Asia-Pacific is manifold. It allows operators to simplify its infrastructure, building out a single converged network that delivers a multitude of revenue generating services – from connectivity, to voice, to value-added services, for individuals and for enterprises. This convergence ultimately brings down the operational cost per users, translating into lower tariffs for customers. In a market that is still very price sensitive, VoIP addresses a gap in the delivery of voice services to the larger, and increasingly nomadic, Asia-Pacific population. Operators have long noticed the growing market for distance voice services, and the number of VoIP players in the international calling card business is huge. Closing the gap in the market here calls for simplifying the process, providing alternative access technologies and repositioning the VoIP proposition from a no-frills budget service into a feature-packed, business-grade, premium service. The challenge here is that while this VoIP technology is already available today, the underlying delivery network is not. The quality, availability and security of VoIP are inherited from the network. Without reliable broadband access and end-to-end coverage, the merits of VoIP are diminished. Prediction 2: There will be increasing demand for next-generation wireless technologies to provide high-bandwidth accessibility to metro and rural Asia without complicated or expensive wire-line deployment. The network of the future is indisputedly wireless, at least in the last mile. In urban areas, wireline deployments mean expensive and disruptive digging. Even though wireline does have lower operating costs and higher reliability, advancements in wireless technologies will close this gap in a short time. In rural areas, the benefits of going wireless are more immediate. Rapid deployment, reduced infrastructure requirements and a wider footprint together form a compelling proposition. VoIP is one of the key drivers for the move toward broadband wireless networks; operators on both sides of the divide are rushing to meet this demand. For cellular operators, mobile broadband presents an opportunity to restore falling revenues. Tweaking their business strategy to encompass VoIP provides customers with the services they want through an already familiar interface. This effectively stops the bleeding caused by free VoIP calls and sets the stage for up-selling value-added services. For traditional data operators, the opportunity is access. Once closed and tightly regulated, the voice market is now opening up to fresh players through VoIP – as long as they’re able to sort out the infrastructural issues relating to wireless voice delivery. Despite the opportunity, both sides face a number of challenges as well. While it is easily available and can be rapidly deployed, the cost of HSDPA, High-Speed Downlink Protocol Access, is still fairly prohibitive for consumers at this early stage, preventing widespread adoption. Access devices are also not yet mature, and somewhat inconvenient, hampering growth. WiMAX is addressing the weaknesses in HSDPA by promising lower deployment and operational costs, particularly in the delivery of service to both metro and rural environments. To this end, many countries in the Asia-Pacific have reserved, and even allocated, spectrum for WiMAX deployments. Where this all breaks down is that WiMAX is still on the drawing board and many key functions, such as mobile WiMAX, exist only in research laboratories and development roadmaps. A combination of WiMAX and WiFi presents a way forward in the meantime, creating the backbone for a future mobile WiMAX deployment. Prediction 3: Operators will change their business strategies, move away from their traditional cash cows, and become converged, value-added, Internet communication service providers. Regardless of the approach, one thing remains constant: operators cannot ignore the changing landscape in Asia-Pacific – a liberalized infrastructure, combined with increasingly liberalized regulation, will create increased competition for the consumer dollar. Traditional operators cannot rest easily on the laurels of early victory. Mobile Virtual Network Operators, MVNOs, are becoming more commonplace in the market. MVNOs are bringing more creative products and services to the market, and consumers are beginning to sit up and notice. For enterprise customers in particular, convergence is providing more avenues for outsourcing – for manpower, for infrastructure and for software. The key to success for today’s service provider is to innovate faster than the competition, and expand its service offerings across both voice and data markets. Assuming, of course, that it’s gotten the basics right.