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Next-Generation Mobile Networks Risk and Reward

According to the latest market study by ABI Research, mobile Internet usage will account for 25 percent of China's mobile phone service revenues in 2012 -- that's up from less than 23 percent in 2011.

In India, mobile Internet is forecast to represent 19 percent of this year's service revenue. While the figures demonstrate the robust demand for mobile data across the Asia-Pacific, they still pale in comparison to the region's leading markets -- such as Japan (40 percent) and Hong Kong (44 percent).

ABI Research senior analyst, Aapo Markkanen said, "It’s in carriers’ interests to become part of the Internet value chain from early on. Strategic choices, such as those seen in Indonesia, can give operators a more integral role in defining the customer experience in a time when the local digital landscape is still being shaped up."

Moreover, such moves also allow mobile network service providers to gain valuable mindshare among local content providers and app developers.

For instance, in Indonesia, Telkom offers its customers a music streaming service, in a joint venture with Korea's SK Telecom, which has successfully utilized a similar service to drive data uptake in its home market.

Meanwhile, XL Axiata has partnered with Blaast, a cloud technology vendor, to set up a cloud-based platform that enables feature-phone users to take advantage of more advanced, smartphone-like mobile applications.

However, the shift toward the next-generation carrier model does not come without risks. In the low-margin environments of the emerging APAC region, network operators should encourage users to migrate to data subscriptions and thus minimize the growing pains related to the 3G and 4G expansion.

According to Jake Saunders, vice president of forecasting at ABI Research, "Early-adopting smartphone owners typically generate far higher data traffic volumes than users that follow them."

If an operator relies solely on the natural early-adopters as the first source of data revenue, it will have to recover the capital expenditure longer than a rival that proactively develops itself a long tail of lower-income data subscribers.

ABI Research forecasts regional and country-level analysis into benchmarks that quantify the usage habits of mobile cellular customers. Additionally, it provides a source of financial and operational benchmarks for the markets as a whole and for each local mobile service provider.

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