4G seen to widen Asian SMEs' reach

Higher-speed services promise to give region's small firms access to wider market, analyst says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 April, 2013, 5:33am

The launch of high-speed 4G services will help remove limits on internet use in Asia and give smaller businesses greater outreach to customers, according to industry experts.

"The rapid rollout of 4G services across Asia could potentially assuage concerns over the low-bandwidth speed and high cost of access," said Anu Madgavkar, a senior fellow at McKinsey Global Institute.

She said 4G services were already widespread in Australia, Japan and South Korea, while in China and India, the region's two largest markets, operators were fast catching up.

China Mobile, the world's largest wireless network operator in terms of subscribers, is planning 4G services in about 100 cities across China.

Small businesses contributed significantly to the economy, Madgavkar said, making up 60 per cent of gross domestic product in China and 57 per cent in Indonesia and Australia.

Karim Temsamani, president of Google Asia-Pacific, said small and medium-sized businesses were the real engines of growth in Asia.

"Asia is overwhelmingly a small-business region," he said. "There are more businesses in Asia that are small than in Western economies."

He said the internet helped to advertise not just to the people in the immediate area, but to the 2.5 billion people with internet connections.

"Our top 10 fastest-growing markets in Asia for [small and medium-sized business] spending are all growing faster than the US," Temsamani said.

He said Hong Kong and Taiwan had active markets but fairly small populations, and that businesses in the region could reach out to the entire world to grow.

Temsamani said people thought the internet was already too crowded with information but actually there was not enough information online, particularly on Asia-Pacific.

"We are all used to finding a lot of information on the internet but the reality is that the internet is still very much driven by what we can find in English," he said.

He said Google saw it as its duty to help "digitisation" in the Asia-Pacific to ensure users could easily find information they cared about online.

"If we do that, it'll be a lot easier for businesses," he said.