Wireless LAN (WLAN) services are beginning to achieve growth in the Asia-Pacific region after two years of struggling to be accepted, according to Dataquest, an arm of research firm Gartner.
There are now six important WLAN markets in the region -- Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, Dataquest said. These markets were all experiencing a good choice of operators, improved service coverage and prices falling to affordable levels. Incumbent telecommunications operators such as Telstra and Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) in Singapore were leading the way, despite not being first to market.
The company said that the emergence of the big players in the WLAN, or WiFi, market had helped drive prices down to a level where ordinary consumers were comfortable with the service value, but had already started to squeeze smaller operators out of the market. The cost in Korea had fallen to US$2.60 per hour, and in Singapore to US$0.12 per minute, equivalent to $US7.20 per hour.
The most aggressive service provider in the region, Korea Telecom, had plans to install 16,000 hotspots by the end of 2003, Dataquest said. The operators were concentrating their coverage in major public places such as airports, commercial buildings, and food and beverage outlets.
Large carriers were looking at bundling their WLAN services with other offerings, making it even harder for specialist WLAN companies to survive.
Recently, Telstra paid A$3.3 million (US$1.93 million) to acquire the network assets of Australia’s pioneer public WLAN operator, SkyNetGlobal, which has more than 600 WiFi hotspots worldwide including some outside Australia which operate through roaming agreements with third parties.
WLAN systems adhering to the 802.11b standard carry data at up to 11M bps (bits per second) in the 2.4GHz frequency band. A more advanced standard known as 802.11a allows for data transmission at up to 54M bps in the 5GHz band.