|Issue:||Asia-Pacific II 2009|
|Topic:||WiMAX: boon for businesses everywhere|
|Organisation:||Packet One Networks Sdn Bhd.|
Michael Lai is currently playing a dual role as CEO of Packet One Networks (M) Sdn Bhd (P1), a provider of WiMAX enabled broadband services, and as CEO of Green Packet International, a global next-generation mobile broadband network solutions provider. Mr Lai has over 20 years of experience in the information and communications technologies sector. Michael Lai is an Electrical Engineer by training with a Masters in Business Administration.
Technology, especially wireless broadband such as WiMAX, lets businesses anywhere compete on an equal footing with well-established global companies. With broadband, workers can work from any convenient location, making productive employment possible for home-bound workers who would otherwise be excluded from the market. Online businesses no longer need to shoulder the cost of expensive office space for their workers or fully staffed showroom space and with cloud computing, IT services can be obtained online without expensive capital investment or fixed expense.
In my life, I have seen plenty of change. The infusion of technology into our daily lives has been remarkable, to say the least. We have moved from wired telephones to cell phones in less than a decade. Today, working professionals are more comfortable with keyboards than pens, and the Blackberry has replaced the organizer as the on-the-go productivity assistant of choice! Few innovations have as profoundly affected the way we live and do business as the Internet. Noted venture capitalist and ‘techno-preneur’ Bill Schrader once said, “Almost overnight, the Internet’s gone from a technical wonder to a business must.” That remark is even more profound today. Throughout the world, the availability of broadband Internet access has had a positive impact on the economy. By using the Internet, businesses have expanded their markets and become increasingly globalised, more productive and profitable. This trend has been so consistent that all countries share the common desire to promote the Internet economy as a means of achieving economic growth and raising national prosperity. In the Asia Pacific region, the Internet has opened new market and spread the growth of information and knowledge among our population. Still, as things stand, the broadband penetration rates throughout the region vary. In Malaysia, the household broadband Internet penetration is currently only around 20 per cent, but in developed countries such as South Korea and Singapore, household broadband penetration rates are more than 97 per cent and 89 per cent respectively (http://www.websiteoptimization.com/bw/0809/). Without ubiquitous broadband Internet access, the inequalities between people who are connected and those who are not are quite apparent. It goes without saying that we need to close this digital divide, and it is to this end that the various governments in the region have actively pursued policies to ramp up broadband Internet penetration in their respective countries. In Malaysia, for instance, one of the latest initiatives is to deploy WiMAX with the aim of achieving 50 per cent household broadband Internet penetration by 2010 – a two and a half-fold growth in the next two years (based on February 2009 figures, which measures current household penetration at slightly above 20 per cent). Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) has a range of up to 50km and, in Malaysia, operates on the 2.3 GHz spectrum and 802.16e standard, known as Mobile WiMAX. As a wireless technology, WiMAX can deliver broadband Internet access without the need for the laying of costly cable infrastructure, and is therefore particularly suitable for use in Malaysia, where a significant part of our population still lives in rural areas. WiMAX-enabled business environment For a long time, broadband Internet access, in the form of often costly leased lines, was a privilege available only to businesses and companies in selected urban locations. Thousands of rural businesses made do with dial-up Internet access – which only clocks in at 56Kbps or less! Without broadband Internet access rural businesses cannot easily send or receive large files via email, or use VoIP to reduce their phone bills. WiMAX will change all this. Businesses with true broadband access will be able to easily market themselves wherever, whenever they wish. Simply put, WiMAX will provide a level playing field for individuals, SOHOs (small offices / home offices) and SMBs (small and medium businesses). The benefits of a WiMAX-enabled business environment extend beyond the confines of the office. WiMAX will liberate workers from the office and allow them to choose where they work – at home or on-the-go. Telecommuting will open new opportunities for many people who otherwise might not work and as professionals; these could be parents who want to stay at home with their children or the handicapped, weak or ill who cannot easily travel. By working from home, these people can become active members of the workforce and significantly improve the quality of their lives. From a manpower perspective alone, this will have a dramatic effect upon the region’s productivity; from a human perspective the effect will be priceless. Talking about the human perspective, the ability of WiMAX to touch and enrich lives and empower people is just one of the many wonderful benefits of the technology. The fact that WiMAX has the ability to unlock the potential of the less able, previously sidelined, segments of society can really drive our nations forward, as we harness previously neglected, unusable, human capital. Even small businesses will find that WiMAX will open doors for them. Through eCommerce, these businesses will be able to sell their goods in the global marketplace. For example, a plastic bottle manufacturer will effectively have a world-wide audience at its reach. The global nature of the Internet means that as long as they harness the right Web platforms, SMBs can compete on a level-playing field with their bigger competitors. WiMAX-enabled business transformation WiMAX broadband will provide businesses with opportunities for cost reduction across their entire operations. Expanded markets and increased competition through online procurement services will reduce the cost of raw materials. For many businesses, broadband Internet access will dramatically reduce their time-to-market by cutting down the time it takes to send, receive and process routine business communications such as purchase orders, invoices and shipping manifests. Beyond routine communications, WiMAX-enabled business will be able to develop enhanced levels of close collaboration through the sharing of complex information between their personnel and their partners. WiMAX will facilitate the exchange of documents in real-time so changes can be discussed and rapidly approved and transactions completed much more quickly. The recent emergence of cloud computing also offers businesses new opportunities to leverage previously unaffordable ICT technologies and achieve greater efficiencies in their operations. Through cloud computing, businesses both large and small can access the IT resources they need as a service, and pay for it as they use it, and eliminate expensive capital investments. The Internet economy The Internet has vastly increased the range of products and services that are readily available to us – from books and electronic goods to banking and VoIP services – the choice, and the power that comes with that choice, are ours. Due to easier and more effective price comparison and an increased range of goods for the buyer to choose from, competition on the Internet is very keen. Businesses that compete in online markets for goods and services have to be very efficient. While the Internet has driven prices down to the benefit of consumers, it has also benefited businesses. A store does not have to be in a prominent, expensive, shopping complex to reach its customers. By having a presence online, the store is effectively wherever their customer is. This has reduced the cost of keeping inventory, which in turn has allowed businesses to sell items they could not carry in a brick-and-mortar store. Just think how much space Amazon.com would need if it were a real world bookshop. Staffing costs are also low, as you no longer need to hire sales personnel to keep the physical store going. And, better yet, the Web store never closes – you can generate sales leads and sell to customers round the clock. As WiMAX is rolled-out across the region, giving more citizens broad access to the Internet, there is every reason for us to expect that the Internet will reach further into our daily lives. Asians have had Internet access for over a decade now, but we have yet to unlock its full potential. WiMAX is the golden key that will open that gate.