Hutchison Whampoa


PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2006, 12:00am

Listening in on the telecoms industry

mobile operators form DATA alliance in asia

Seven mobile operators have formed an alliance to promote international voice and data roaming in Asia.

They are Hong Kong's Hutchison Telecommunications, Japan's NTT DoCoMo, India's Hutchison Essar, Taiwan's Far EasTone, Indonesia's PT Indosat, South Korea's KT Freetel and Singapore's StarHub.

The 'Asia-Pacific Mobile Alliance' covers more than 100 million subscribers in Asia.

While voice roaming is common with GSM technology, the goal of the grouping is to promote data roaming, especially with carriers moving to adopt faster 3G technology known as high-speed downlink packet access.

But roaming alliances have come and gone and are not new to Asia. There is the Asia Mobility Initiative (AMI), and Europe has FreeMove to promote cross-border roaming.

Many doubt the benefits of such alliances, noting AMI and FreeMove have slipped into inactivity. The problem is on the organisational level. The alliances are run by consensus, so it is difficult to get anything done.

A better way might be to organise regional groups similar to a privately run company.

Bridge Mobile, which is based in Singapore, has its own board of directors and a management team that includes a chief executive, chief financial officer and other senior executive level positions.

The group's membership includes SingTel, Bharti, Globe Telecom, Optus, Maxis, Telkomsel, Taiwan Mobile and Hong Kong's CSL.

Bridge Mobile has also expanded its horizons to include telecommunications equipment giants such as Ericsson, Nokia, ZTE and Hewlett-Packard as associate members.

But while the group is organised like a private company, it does not have a bottom-line motivation.

'Getting profit for the company is not the highest priority,' an executive said.

Rather, it was delivering services over a common platform so that costs could be lowered among the group's member operators, benefiting everyone.