Broadband Market to Get New Players

SINGAPORE (04/19/2000) - Broadband adoption here is set to leap ahead with the introduction of new players which the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) roped in to help propel this market to a higher level.

The local government has demonstrated strong interest in the broadband market, having announced recently that it is pumping in S$150 million (US$88 million) to stimulate demand for and supply of interactive broadband multimedia services.

It is also targeting to grow the number of SingaporeONE users to 200,000 by the end of 2000.

Broadband is the next hottest topic to hit the market after the Internet, said Khoong Hock Yun, assistant chief executive at IDA, who cited strong figures in the United States as indication of this growth.

According to Forrester Research, the number of broadband subscribers in the United States will reach 5.7 million by end-2000, and is projected to reach 27.4 million by 2003, making up 23 percent of households with Internet connection. Half of the access value in the United States will also come from broadband users, whose demographics belong to the higher-income category, Khoong noted, adding that 72 percent of broadband users there have more than two years of online experience.

The number of broadband subscribers in Asia reached 482,585 at the end of last year, and is projected to grow to 11.2 million by the end of 2003, with an annual revenue of US$5.05 billion, according to The Yankee Group.

The anticipated growth spells huge opportunities for companies such as On2.com, "both in terms of broadband technology, and in defining the kinds of content and distribution that will enable the success of the broadband market", said Fabian Friedland, senior vice president, business development, On2.com. On2.com offers broadband content delivery over the Internet, providing technologies that include video compression, video storage, and streaming media.

The company also recently announced an alliance with IDA to promote the growth of interactive broadband media services in Singapore, where On2 will customize and co-locate its On2Movies broadband channel on SingaporeONE. As the number of Internet users and broadband adoption grow, content will shift from the office to home, Friedland said.

He predicted also that there will be "a decline of PC as the consumer device", where the market will see the emergence of home devices such as set top boxes, and next-generation gaming machines.

"It's going to be pervasive, and beyond just computers," Khoong said, who described a future with a network of communication devices such as handhelds and mobile phones, from which users will gain access to content delivered over broadband connection.

"And it's about not just putting TV on broadband," said K C Watson, vice president of marketing at innovatv.com, a company which provides technology and solutions for the delivery of interactive video content to high-speed Internet subscribers.

Innovatv.com also recently announced its alliance with IDA to provide SingaporeONE users with access to the firm's partner-branded interactive video magazines, or iMags. The lack of appealing content and services has often been said to have attributed to the slower-than-expected uptake of broadband in Singapore.

Content and service providers looking for success in the broadband market here should not restrict themselves to specific markets, Watson advised.

"Don't decide on (providing for) one type of audience, because the Internet is built on niches and different kinds of categories," he explained. "On the Internet, any type of content is game."

The provision of appealing content is going to be the main driver for broadband adoption, Friedland said. If people are just getting services at a faster speed, then there will not be demand, he added.

"What we would like to see is people here moving from narrowband to broadband, to shift and scale higher to more multimedia and interactive content and services," Khoong said.

He added that companies such as On2.com and innovatv.com, will help demonstrate how this can be done, and noted that the recently-liberalized telecommunication market will yield new players, and see more "creative packaging".

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