Making the connection into the region

By Sudeshna Sarkar ( China Daily )

Updated: 2013-06-25

Making the connection into the region
Models present the Huawei Ascend P6 Android-based smartphone at the CommunicAsia communication and information technology exhibition in Singapore on June 19, 2013. [Photo / Agencies]

Affordability and financing make Chinese companies welcome in ASEAN telecommunications sector, reports Sudeshna Sarkar

Sudhir Pasumarty and his five teammates were feeling upbeat. They had been developing a corporate social responsibility project at the Singapore office of the Grey Group, the New York-based global advertising and marketing agency, and it is ready.

Their project is a mobile app, Lend An Eye, that can help a blind person "see". Users wear the phone around their necks while venturing out alone. If they require directions, help to cross the road or to order from a cafe menu, all they need to do is double tap the screen.

Voice activation then connects the user to a volunteer and the camera issues live video streaming as well as a map. It's as though he is standing right next to the volunteer, who reads out the menu or says when it's safe to cross the road.

Thousands of miles away in Ho Chi Minh City, writer and tech wiz Anh-Minh Do was describing another telecom marvel. Tourists visiting Vietnam will love Aloxeom, a web-based motorbike taxi service, a far cheaper option to cabs.

What makes it especially cost-effective is that Aloxeom also indicates the route via a map and texts the correct fare so that the passenger is not taken for a ride.

In Cambodia, seeking a visa is no longer the dreary, time-consuming queuing up it used to be. Now online applications are possible, thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation's e-visa website, and while waiting for the transaction to be completed, the visitor-to-be gets a virtual tour of places of interest and cultural activities.

A major common thread running through these three Southeast Asian countries and their other seven peers that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or the ASEAN, is the telecom network that connects this bloc of 576 million people regionally as well as with the outside world.

Making the connection into the region

And a significant component of that thread is Chinese equipment, software and finance.

"Within the telecom sector, (we) forecast strong customer and revenue growth for most countries in ASEAN, particularly in the larger and faster-growing economies such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand," said Andrew Kitson, business and industry information provider Business Monitor International's senior information and communication technology analyst in London.

"This is because large numbers of people - and businesses - in these countries are still not provided with adequate telecommunications services. Thus, there is considerable room for local and foreign investors to see a good return on investment in technology hardware and services."

This opportunity, Kitson said, has come about from the increased presence of Chinese technology companies across the region, specifically Huawei and ZTE.

"They offer very low-cost products, which appeal to local telephone and mobile operator companies and their consumers," he said.

"The other strengths are that they are well-known in the region, are a trusted brand and the technology is proven."

Chinese equipment vendors are also popular because they are ready to extend affordable financing by bringing in Chinese banks in exchange for better distribution and sales rights.

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