China Mobile to partner with other APAC telecoms giants as they pursue region's 1.8 bln subscribers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 July, 2015, 4:23pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 July, 2015, 5:02pm

Three of the biggest mobile network operators in Asia Pacific are gearing up for increased collaboration as they target the huge number of subscribers in the region.

Senior executives from China Mobile, Japan’s NTT Docomo and Telstra of Australia — each of which dominates wireless network services in their respective market — shared their new business strategy at the opening of the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Shanghai on Wednesday.

A study by the GSMA, an industry body that represents nearly 800 mobile network operators around the world, found that the mobile industry contributed US$1.1 trillion to the overall Asia-Pacific economy last year, equivalent to 4.7 per cent of the region’s total gross domestic product.

At the end of the first quarter, there were 1.8 billion unique mobile subscribers in the region, representing 45 per cent of the total population. Mainland China, India, Indonesia and Japan accounted for more than 75 per cent of the region’s total subscriber base.

“If we want to broaden the scale of our operations, it is important for us to deepen collaboration [with operators, regulators and other industries],” China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua said on Wednesday.

Xi pointed out that China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile network operator by number of subscribers, will target new investments “to make breakthroughs” and upgrade its mobile internet services.

“We want our network to be faster, intelligent and more efficient,” he said.

China Mobile had 816.3 million subscribers as of May 31, including 170.3 million 4G customers.

Japanese mobile giant NTT DoCoMo, which counted 66.6 million mobile subscriptions as of March 31, has apparently stepped up implementation of its strategy based on the demands of its home market.

Kaoru Kato, the president and chief executive at NTT Docomo, announced that the company has started an alliance with General Electric’s electric device manufacturing business in Japan to develop a new internet of things device for companies to monitor their infrastructure facilities.

The GE-NTT Docomo device will be able to monitor operational data, such as temperature and vibration, and manage such data through a smartphone or tablet.

Kato said that system could serve as a diagnostic tool to prevent failures and assist in preserving ageing facilities, including roads and bridges, plants, and electricity, gas and water utilities.

NTT Docomo has also worked with Tomy Company to jointly develop “OHaNAS”, an interactive voice-activated toy for children and adults to engage in Japanese-language conversation. The device links wirelessly with smartphones to connect to the operator’s proprietary, online natural-language dialogue platform.

“The world is going digital, and more digital concepts are coming on stream,” Kato said.

David Thodey, a former Telstra chief executive who represented the company at GSMA Mobile World Congress Shanghai, said putting customers first has fuelled our industry’s development".

"But it is not easy because we work in such a complex eco-system," he said.

Telstra, which had about 16 million mobile subscribers at the end of its fiscal year to August, has been investing heavily to transform itself into a world-class technology company.

Over the past three years, Telstra has invested about A$500 million (US$371.5 million) through acquisitions in Britain, Sweden and the United States to build an intelligent video software and analytics platform called Ooyala.

The company has also invested in 15 electronic health-related acquisitions and partnerships over the past 18 months. The technologies being developed — including remote diagnostic, secure health record-keeping and electronic prescription — are expected to change the way medical practitioners deliver their service and improve the way patients experience health care.