Last week at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Bangkok, Alcatel-Lucent said by the end of the decade Asia will need to invest $1.1 trillion in its telecom infrastructure to compete in the digital economy.
According to the telecom equipment provider, over the past five years, Asia has added 1.5 billion additional mobile subscribers; yet still more than 25% 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, says Alcatel-Lucent (Paris).
Asia’s networks will also need to support growing traffic requirements and increasing population density in urban centers. 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, says Alcatel-Lucent.
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, which aim to make affordable high-speed broadband and wireless services universally accessible for people.
The extent of national broadband projects varies. While Singapore and Malaysia are already providing high telecom services, a huge infrastructure gap exists between them and nations like Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam, says Alcatel-Lucent. In Myanmar, for example, only 1.3% of the population currently subscribes to mobile voice services, compared to the neighboring 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,” says 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. “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 $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 aims to change the number of Thais connected to a network from 33% today to 95% by 2020, says Alcatel-Lucent.