Here in Australia the debate over the A$37 billion FTTH National Broadband Network (NBN) has been as bitter and partisan as anything I have seen in my 15 years living down under, at times it has made debates over traditional hot-button issues like abortion and gay marriage seem like tea and biscuits with the local Vicar.
The news last month that Japanese ISP So-Net was launching the Nuro 2Gbps FTTH service for residential users – the fastest residential service in the world – was greeted with envy by bandwidth-starved users the world over.
Although it must be wonderful for Japanese consumers to choose between rival 1Gbps services from the likes of NTT East and West, KDDI and the regional power companies offering FTTH – with So-Net’s latest offering being the cherry on the cake – there are serious implications here for operators.
I was in a hotel bar in Hong Kong when I got one of my first major tipoffs as a budding telecoms journalist. It came from a well-lubricated telecoms-industry executive whom I never saw again.
“Look, I shouldn’t really be telling you this, but something big is about to happen in China,” he said. “Can you keep a secret?”
“Yes, sure,” I replied.
“Well, this really is top secret, but the deal is almost done so it can’t do much harm now,” he said. “Virgin Mobile is going to launch as an MVNO in Shanghai. Unbelievable, isn’t it?”
Former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once famously remarked that “a week is a long time in politics.” Few would doubt that, but judging from the change in mood between Broadband World Forums 2011 and 2012, if a week is a long time in politics, a year is an eternity in the telecoms market.
Like most other people in the telecoms industry I do love a good rumour, there’s simply nothing better than working out the different reasons behind a rumoured deal and then wondering if there’s some magic angle that you’re missing, the link that makes the whole thing make perfect sense.
Let’s imagine you are a cashed-up investor looking to park your money someplace you can get a decent return and during your daily reading you read about a minor broadband operator that says it will quintuple its current market share over the next three years and reach 50 million subscribers by end-2015.
The decision by the Korean Communications Commission to allow mobile operators to charge subscribers for accessing mobile voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) services from “over the top” providers, such as Kakao Talk, is a defining moment in the country’s net-neutrality debate.
Broadly speaking life is pretty sweet for Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s shadow minister for communications and broadband. He has a reported A$200m in the bank, lives in Sydney’s exclusive harbour-side suburb of Point Piper, has a country retreat in the scenic Hunter Valley, three boats, a successful grown family and even a couple of nice dogs.
Having traveled the global telecoms-conference circuit for more years than I care to remember, I have lost count of the number of forthcoming “revolutionary” services I have heard breathlessly pronounced by vendors and operators – most of which ultimately amount to nothing.
There are some deals that you really should see coming a long way off but somehow you miss them and then when the headline lands in your inbox like a right-hook from Mike Tyson back in the 1980′s you feel a little foolish.
For those of us who spend our lives in the bubble of the international telecoms industry it was not exactly a massive surprise to see the news that Chinese vendor Huawei would be blocked from bidding for work on the country’s A$38bn National Broadband Network (NBN).
Somewhat ironically I had only just returned home from the Content Delivery Networks Asia 2012 conference in Hong Kong – where telco CDN’s were touted as the solution to the great telco versus OTT battle – when I read that Korean market giant KT had decided to cut off access for OTT content for Samsung’s connected TV’s using its broadband network.
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) put together a blockbuster CASBAA Convention 2011 in Hong Kong in early November. But some of the expected fireworks at the convention were not quite as explosive as many delegates had hoped.
The announcement on Aug. 10 that US online-video site Hulu
was planning to make its first foray into Asia Pacific with the launch of
services in Japan did not come as a particularly big surprise, considering that
Hulu had never made a secret of its international ambitions.
Conventional wisdom has it that the APAC region is dominated by high-speed fibre networks and that nobody in the region could ever be so gauche as to still be running something as old hat as plain old DSL – nothing could be further from the truth.
Sometimes the good people of Hong Kong must wonder what on earth they have done to deserve such a plethora of high-speed broadband offerings (writes Tony Brown, Senior Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media). At times it must almost be too much, as their cup overflows with cut-rate 100Mbps offerings being forced upon them by market-share-hungry operators.
Having lived the first half of my adult life in the UK and the second half in Australia, it is little wonder that I have such a strong affinity with the underdog in a given situation, since both countries have cultures that root for the little guy to succeed over a bigger, stronger opponent.
In this job I am lucky to get to travel to some truly fantastic cities: This year alone I have been able to visit three of the most amazing places on the planet – London, Shanghai and Hong Kong – and I won’t even begin to brag about the three day trip I scored to Shenzhen.
In the Australian context Turnbull appears to be arguing that in the absence of the NBN – and it is hard to tell his exact position in the absence of a clearly outlined broadband policy – local operators should be allowed to follow the South Korean example and rollout networks where and when they please, purely in the name of diversity and competition.
There is little doubt that City Telecom-owned broadband operator Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) is one of the most remarkable operators in Asia Pacific. What the operator has achieved on a modest budget and against some tough competition has been extraordinary.