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Thu, Aug 23, 2001 - Page 21 News List

Region lacks broadband Internet content

AFP , SINGAPORE

A lack of broadband-specific Internet content and applications is stifling the technology's growth in the Asia-Pacific region, an industry expert said yesterday.

"The broadband take-up rate has not been as fulfilling as many people have projected," Chen Diing Yu, marketing director of Hewlett-Packard Asia Pacific, told a telecommunications conference.

A study by technology consultancy International Data Corp (IDC) revealed that broadband penetration in the region, excluding Japan, grew 812 percent from 475,000 subscribers in 1999 to 4.3 million in 2000.

But growth eased to 147 percent in 2001 and is forecast to moderate further in subsequent years.

The study, published in May, predicted there would be about 42 million broadband subscribers in the region, with the exception of Japan, by 2005.

But Chen said he was more pessimistic as narrow-band methods such as dial-up Internet access remained the preferred choice of subscribers.

He pointed out that Korea, the world's largest broadband market, had about 3.5 million broadband users, according to a March study, but more than five million other Koreans were still using narrowband.

Technology-savvy countries such as Singapore, Australia and Taiwan also have 10-40 times more narrowband subscribers than broadband subscribers.

Chen explained that a lack of broadband-specific content and applications was making broadband just another access service technology, hampering its desired pace of growth.

"Today, broadband access or broadband offering really is indistinguishable from narrowband, apart from speed," he said.

And when there are server limitations on the hosting end, broadband loses its "speed differentiator" and its competitive edge, he said.

He added that in Singapore, broadband access speed sometimes fell to a level that was no different from a regular dial-up modem.

Broadband penetration would grow only where broadband-specific content was offered and accepted, said the expert, who identified video as a "killer application" that would propel broadband "in the same way emails have enabled narrowband growth."

"Where broadband access has wide adoption, as with Korea, it is because there is specific content that customers desire and for that content, are willing to pay extra cost," he said.

South Korea has a widespread culture of computer gaming and its people are eager to jump into broadband, which promises a better gaming environment than that offered by narrowband.

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