Mobile commerce to boom in Asia

HONG KONG -- Mobile commerce will boom over the next four years in the Asia-Pacific, with total annual revenue in the region, excluding Japan, expected to reach more than $36 billion in 2004, according to a bulletin report released this week by International Data Corp. (IDC).

The growth in the value of transactions conducted via wireless handheld devices will be pushed along by the advent of 3G (third-generation) cellular technology, according to an IDC statement summarizing the findings of the report. It will go hand in hand with a increase in wireless Internet users in the region to 142 million.

Earlier predictions of a lucrative future for mobile commerce, focused on WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) content delivered via today's circuit-switched cellular networks, have proved overly ambitious as a relatively small number of users embraced the services. They require customers to dial in to a server in real time to send or receive each successive chunk of data.

Networks based on 3G wireless technology will allow mobile users to access services at speeds as high as 384K bps (bits per second), opening the door to new capabilities such as videoconferencing, shopping and Web surfing on mobile devices. Because it is based on a packet network, users will pay for it by packet, not by air time.

The world's first commercial 3G services are set to be rolled out in Japan in May. A select few other Asian countries, such as South Korea and Thailand have already awarded 3G licenses to operators. Others, including Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan are expected to issue 3G licenses this year, and IDC anticipates developing countries in the region getting the technology by 2003.

One key to offering popular services will be allocating bandwidth to various types of users and services, IDC said in the statement. Corporate users might be able to buy a higher speed connection at a higher cost, for example, and a faster connection could be allocated for multimedia services than for simple uses such as instant messaging.

IDC is a subsidiary of International Data Group Inc., the parent company of the IDG News Service.

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