|Issue:||Asia-Pacific III 2008|
|Topic:||Asia and the small screen-Web|
|Title:||Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing in Asia-Pacific,|
James Wei is the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing in Asia-Pacific for Opera Software; he is a seasoned telecommunications executive with more than a decade of experience in senior management. Mr Wei comes to Opera Software from Teleca, where he served as Managing Director of Teleca Taiwan, a mobile phone software system integrator. Before joining Teleca Taiwan, Wei served as General Manager of Openwave System in Taiwan. Mr Wei has also served in executive level sales, marketing and business development positions at HelloAsia and iAsiaworks. Mr Wei holds a BS degree in Business Administration from the College of New Jersey.
The Internet is growing rapidly, but much of its growth has more to do with mobile phones than with computers. Even basic phones provide access nowadays, and third generation (3G), 3.5G, and 4G (WiMAX, LTE) have made high-speed Internet access easier and affordable. The Asia-Pacific region will benefit most from mobile access. Chinese speakers will outnumber English speakers on the Net by the next decade, mostly using mobile phones, and social networks will generate much of the traffic.
With Internet usage on the rise in Asia-Pacific, it is natural that Internet users in this region will find alternative means to get online. In countries where computers and broadband lines are few and far between, mobile phones reign supreme. Today, even the most basic handsets are capable of accessing Web content and the Web browser’s ability to compress data, and the operators, desire to keep their customers surfing, keeps costs relatively low. A worldwide phenomenon According to recent statistics from Byte Level Research, there are currently one billion Internet users worldwide. About 300 million of these people speak English and about 128 million speak Chinese. Byte Level predicts that over the next five years the number of Chinese people online will double and will one day surpass the English-speaking people in Internet domination. In a report by Internet World Stats, Asia accounts for 38.7 per cent of all Internet users and the number is growing. With all this pro-Web momentum in Asia, one could almost imagine broadband lines stretched to even the most rural communities in Asia and computers falling out of the sky to keep up with the demand, but this isn’t necessarily the case. A report from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU – May 2008), stated that mobile phone usage in Asia grew 28 per cent from 2005 to 2007. India alone garnered 154 million new subscribers and China boasted 143 million new subscribers. The report stated that mobile phones are clearly eclipsing fixed phone lines. The report goes on to state that many of these Asian countries have made great strides in terms of mobile growth while still lagging behind in broadband access. As a result, Asians are turning to their mobile phones to get online. What is happening in China, Indonesia and India? Our study, the State of the Mobile Web, compiled mobile surfing statistics from all over the world. The study clearly indicates that people are mainly using their mobile Web browsers for social networking. Social networks generate almost 40 per cent of Internet traffic worldwide. In some countries, such as the United States, South Africa and Indonesia, the social Web accounts for more than 60 per cent of the traffic. The study also concludes that there is a definite preference for full Web content on mobile phones versus limited WAP content. Full Web surfing comprises more than 77 per cent of all traffic. Content on WAP and .mobi sites accounted for 23 per cent of mobile Web traffic. This share continues to decline as more consumers use mobile web browsers to access rich Web content and become more comfortable browsing the Web on their phones. The State of the Mobile Web report also took a close look at the mobile Web users in Indonesia, China and India, and assessed the surfing habits of people in these countries. In Indonesia, 63 per cent of traffic is directed towards social networks. Indonesia is tied with the United States as the number one country for social networking on the mobile Web. Indonesians spend most of their mobile surfing minutes visiting sites such as www.friendster.com, id.yahoo.com, www.google.com, www.peperonity.com and wireless.getjar.com. The Chinese, however, prefer to spend their time visiting search engines and portals. Web portal content and search engine access accounts for nearly 55 per cent of the traffic. E-commerce and email are not yet as popular in China as in other parts of the world. Together, these two categories combined create less than two per cent of overall mobile browser traffic in China. Instead, the Chinese spend their time on Web sites such as www.sina.com.cn, www.baidu.com, www.google.cn, www.ko.cn and news.sohu.com. In India, social networking dominates once again when it comes to mobile Web usage, with nearly half (48.9 per cent) of all traffic going to social networks. Indians’ favourite sites include www.orkut.com, www.google.com, in.m.yahoo.com, www.peperonity.com and gallery.mobile9.com. The role of the browser As the State of the Web study discovered, most people spend their time surfing social networking sites when browsing from a mobile phone or other device. These sites allow visitors to create and update their own content, rather than simply viewing a fixed Web page. According to a research report conducted by Vision Mobile, “Browsing is out, engaging experiences are in.” One way that operators are adhering to the above statement is by implementing widgets into their mobile Web offering. Widgets are small and often single-purpose applications built using open Web technologies. A worldwide community of Web developers creates widgets; the widgets allow developers to rapidly create and deploy applications that leverage the most popular Web services, whether local or global in scope. An operator could, for example, offer its subscribers a Facebook Widget, on the phone’s home screen. This not only provides the users with the interactive and engaging mobile Web experiences they demand, but it also benefits the operator in terms of another revenue source from data traffic. Operators such as Japan’s KDDI have long believed in the power of the Web on their mobile phones. KDDI offers 66 handsets that include a Web browser. It was among the first operators to provide its customers with widgets to access the browser. KDDI wished to enable users to improve and personalize their browsing experiences. Because of its Web offerings, KDDI continues to be one of the leading Japanese telecoms with an ever-increasing subscriber-base. The mobile Web in Asia As the first market to introduce 3G (third generation mobile broadband) to mobile phone users, Asia is now entering a post-3G world while the United States is slowly playing catch up. A Business Week article states that the Koreans, for example, are building new national networks called High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA). This new type of network supports Web surfing on a broader range of devices, including PDAs and other small, handheld gadgets. HSDPA, also called 3.5G, is an advanced, faster, version of existing 3G network technology. Most 3G operators in Asia have adopted this technology, enabling a better faster Internet experience for the end user. The infrastructure in Asia is clearly ready and waiting for increased mobile browsing. Asian countries recognize that the Internet does not require a desktop computer anymore and local governments are investing in alternative means for their citizens to stay connected. Asian networks are also heading towards WiMAX, which promises to expand the wireless Internet capabilities in mobile devices, especially in countries without developed broadband and 3G networks. WiMAX should be commercially available in 2009. The move towards WiMAX shows Asia’s belief in the Web going mobile and that the future capabilities of these Internet-ready devices will require a faster and more flexible network. The Web is evolving and Web browser technology is evolving with it. Asia is taking the lead in terms of mobile browsing and, as such, Web content will adapt to meet their needs. With faster, stronger networks, the Asian people will be able to use their portable devices for even more advanced Web services, and the mobile phone will continue to grow as a standard platform for development of Web content in this region. The world is looking to Asia to lead the way to the future of mobile browsing.