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Simon Beardow - Deputy Director, British Council, Vietnam

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Why Asia Leads The Digital World

Optical fibre provides cheaper bandwidth for l...
There is a constant drilling and tapping through our condo walls as I write this.  It is the sound of the Singapore government's high speed broadband initiative as they lay and connect free fibre optic cable.  This will be completed by 2012 and I, as a resident, will have not had to pay a penny to access this service.

These higher fixed connection speeds will mean an even higher adoption of broadband, provide a greater range of services capabilities and according to a new survey by Pyramid Research, boost service revenue to $5.1 billion by 2014.

In China the broadband commitment is as impressive.  According to a government white paper published on June 8th, China has invested heavily in Internet infrastructure construction.

"From 1997 to 2009 a total of 4.3 trillion yuan was invested in this regard, building a nationwide optical communication network with a total length of 8.267 million km."

" By the end of 2009 Chinese basic telecommunications companies had 136 million broadband Internet access ports Internet access to 99.3% of Chinese towns and 91.5% of villages, and broadband to 96.0% of the towns."

By the end of last year:
  • the number of Chinese netizens had reached 384 million
  • this is 618 times that of 1997 and an annual increase of 31.95 million users
  • The Internet had reached 28.9% of the total population, higher than the world average
  • There were 3.23 million websites running in China, which was 2,152 times that of 1997
  • Of all the netizens, 346 million used broadband and 233 million used mobile phones to access the Internet
  • They had moved on from dialing the access numbers to broadband and mobile phones
In New Zealand the government  is attempting to get a national ultra-fast broadband (UFB) network up and running but have thus far been frustrated by the actions of its major Telco.  They intend spending $US1 billion on the UFB.

Meanwhile the UK is still trumpeting a plan to roll out of 2mps to every household.  One of their new ministers, the Right Honourable Jeremy Hunt MP has described this target as "pitifully unambitious." and he is correct.

To put the British strategy into context, Korea aims to have broadband that is 500 times faster.

And then of course there are the costs that Internet Service Providers load on to consumers.

In Singapore all plans provide for 'unlimited' use and are based on speed.  A basic 6mps service costs a mere $Sing 34.95 per month and comes bundled with other goodies such as free TV viewing of the English premier league.

In New Zealand pricing is based on limited data use.  For $NZ39.95 a miserly 3Gb can be used, at speeds that are nowhere near as fast as Singapore's.  The cost of this limited service is obscene!  When you add phone line costs the real cost in NZ for the 3Gb is around $NZ90 per month.
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