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China & Singapore - Partnering for Success

Mr Khoong Hock Yun, Assistant Chief Executive - Industry Group Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore Speech - Singapore Wireless Seminar at PT Comms China 2003, Beijing

Mr Khoong Hock Yun, Assistant Chief Executive - Industry Group
Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore
Speech - Singapore Wireless Seminar at PT Comms China 2003, Beijing
China, 13 November 2003

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for taking time off to attend this seminar.

Wireless Opportunities Abound in Asia

Asia is a fast growing wireless market. According to Gartner's report in 2000, the total number of mobile connections in Asia was expected to reach 700 million, mobile data1 users to rise to 172 million, and mobile services revenue was forecasted to be more than US$30 billion by 2006. China is clearly one market which excites many wireless industry players and analysts. With an expected projected mobile market of 340 million users2 by 2006, China is set to play a key role in the Asian and international wireless space. Beijing has also been identified as one of the fastest growing telecommunications regions, and is also a center for high-tech products manufacturing zone, including telecommunications sector.

At present, as one of the highest mobile penetrations in the world, Asia provides a ready market for wireless companies to capture new business opportunities. However amidst this euphoria on wireless internet, can we say that wireless data has taken off in a big way here or anywhere in the world?

Interestingly, most of the progress in mobile data usage today is still predominantly people-to-people communications and simple services e.g. SMS and MMS, and personal entertainment type of services e.g. ringtone downloads and mobile gaming. Why is it so? The harsh reality is that wireless internet is still in its infancy. The global wireless industry at large, is still figuring how to move up the wireless learning curve. There are many challenges yet to overcome but enormous potential to be tapped from wireless.

Need to Build a Wireless Ecosystem

One key challenge the wireless data business faces concerns the development of a comprehensive wireless ecosystem. An ecosystem that spans a more complex value chain from content providers, content aggregators, technology and applications providers, telecoms service providers, equipment manufacturers, financial intermediaries, etc. Furthermore, a complex set of issues like data privacy and security, government policies, innovative business models will need to evolve as well. This is by no means an easy feat for an industry that accustomed to access issues alone.

Need to Forge Partnerships

Beyond the complexities of the value chain, Asia also faces the challenge of a diversity of markets. To support the development of ecosystem, we should form alliances and partnerships to exchange technical expertise & know how, agree on common standards, learn from each other best business practices and share risk. Forming strategic partnerships with complementary companies allow small and medium sized businesses to focus on their core competencies and gain market access while relying on trusted partners to perform the business functions they specialize in. Singapore can offer partnerships and joint projects opportunities, as well as be a launchpad to rest of Asia and beyond.

Singapore's Wireless Landscape

Singapore, with its multi-racial population, high mobile penetration of 80% and deep links with the international business community, is a strategic hub for regional innovation with 6,000 MNCs and 100,000 SMEs providing a vibrant market place and reservoir of expertise.

Being small yet nimble, Singapore is a good testbed for innovative wireless technologies and provides a neutral ground for collaborative efforts between companies from the region and beyond. For example, in September this year, five Asian telecommunications companies joined the collaborative efforts by Intel Corporation and IDA to solve the challenges of roaming between wireless hotspots. Asian companies joining in the charge in the initiative included China Mobile, Hong Kong's Pacific Century CyberWorks (PCCW), and MobileOne, Singapore Telecommunications, StarHub from Singapore. This multi-country and cross-industry initiative is a very good example of how nations can work together and draw on the expertise of each participating company to develop standards for global seamless connectivity. It also helps put Asia on the world's map as this is a first-of-its-kind initiative in the wireless arena.

As an industry promoter, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) has been actively encouraging industry tie-ups to embark on pilots and trials in the emerging areas for wireless developments through a series of Call for Collaborations (CFCs). The CFC is an open call to companies to collaborate in conducting projects to address areas of opportunities or gaps in the market. Some of the CFCs that we have initiated include mobile payments, mobile workforce solutions, location-based services and wireless Java.

For the Mobile Workforce CFC, 20 consortia, involving international companies such as Diethlem, Philip Morris, Sun Microsystems, and Hewlett Packard, to pilot and trial innovative mobile workforce solutions for a wide spectrum of industries. The CFC resulted in the development of 32 products and services, which are expected to generate revenues of some US$23 million over the next 2 years.

In another CFC on Mobile Payment, mobile operators, banks, payment providers, wireless equipment manufacturers, and other players in the wireless players came together to develop the mobile payments infrastructure in Singapore. Four out of five of the trials were commercialized.

These pilots and trials proved to be a useful platform to obtain consumer and user feedback in helping the participating companies to fine-tune their solutions and to shape their commercialization decisions and plans. Singapore is an ideal experimental ground for enterprises to test out new wireless applications and services, and to take their new technology ideas into commercial reality. Potentially, we hope to facilitate the testing of new products and services by Singapore and Chinese enterprises in China, before deployment in the other Asian and even global markets.

Singapore-China Collaborative Efforts

Government-to-government collaborative efforts between Singapore and China are not new in the Infocomm space. At the Global Enterprise Forum held in Singapore last month, the China Innovation Centre for High Technology Enterprises was launched to help over 28,000 Chinese high-tech enterprises to innovate and internationalize. Based in Singapore, it will serve as a technology incubator centre and will help small and medium sized IT companies in China to use Singapore as a launchpad into the global marketplace. According to China's Torch Centre, Singapore was chosen because its resources and strengths as a communications and financial hub complemented the needs of China's IT start-ups and SMEs.

In November last year, IDA signed an MOU with the Shanghai Informatization Office (SIO) to accelerate collaborations and information exchanges in e-commerce, e-government systems, information and network security, human resource development, and ICT solutions. A task force has since been set up to identify potential projects for Shanghai and Singapore IT companies, and pave way for project collaboration meetings. We also look forward to closing a similar formalized working agreement with the Beijing Informatization Office in time to come.

The opening of IDA's China Office in July 2002 also exemplified our commitment towards a long-term bilateral relationship with China. I am happy to note that to date, IDA China Office has provided assistance by providing leads and referrals to approximately 40 Singapore Infocomm technology companies in the Chinese market.

Together Taking Wireless to the Next Level

To continue to build on the complementary strengths of our countries, it is our intention to work closely together with China through Beijing to establish new partnerships in the wireless and ICT sectors. We would like to invite Chinese companies to participate in our pilots and trials in Singapore, or in joint projects in China where we can share our experiences in piloting new technologies.

In closing, the Singapore government is committed to continuously look into pro-business regulations and policies to facilitate collaborations between companies in Beijing and Singapore. I look forward to more joint projects that go beyond government-led to an industry-government partnership to spearhead the efforts to build up our wireless ecosystem, so as to reap the immense potential presented in this industry. Together, let us take wireless to the next level!

Thank you.


1 Exclude SMS usage. Source: Gartner Dataquest, Mobile Data, 1999 - 2006, All of Asia, September 2000
2 Source: IDC, Asia/Pacific Wireless Services Market Forecast & Analysis, 2001 - 2006 (figure is spread across 31 provinces)