Lara Srivastava is ITU New Initiatives Programme Director with the Strategy and Policy Unit (SPU) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Geneva (Switzerland). She is responsible for monitoring and analysing trends in ICT, policy and market structure, with a particular focus on mobile and wireless communications. Mrs Srivastava organises and advises on workshops and symposia programmes and contributes to programme development for the global ITU TELECOM Forum. She has written and managed several ITU publications and published several articles in refereed journals and books, on topics ranging from the mobile Internet and market regulation to the growing nexus between technology and society. Previously, Mrs Srivastava worked for the Legal Department of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC), the Technical University of Delft (Netherlands) and for the UK-based telecommunication consultancy Analysys. Lara Srivastava holds a BA Honours degree and Master of Arts in French Literature from Queen’s University (Canada) and a French Studies Diploma from the Université de Strasbourg (France). She received a Bachelor of Law from the University of Ottawa (Canada) and an Advanced Post-Graduate Diploma in International Law and Telecommunications (CRA) from the Université de Panthéon-Assas Paris II (France). She completed a Master of Science in Technology Policy at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) of the University of Sussex (UK) and was granted the Canadian Science Policy Scholarship.
Asia-Pacific is the epicentre of the wireless world. It has the world’s largest mobile markets and is home to the first 3G networks in the world. Broadband connections in Asia outnumber those in both Europe and North America. Projects there will provide object-to-object communications. So, “things”, including household objects, can intercommunicate to create a complex network, an Internet of Things. Japan leads with this “ubiquitous” vision for technology and South Korea is building ubiquity into its national technological vision
Mobile phones, no one will argue, have hit the mainstream in many regions of world. These small devices have become indispensable to many personal and professional lives. Nowhere is this truer than in the Asia-Pacific region, the epicentre of the wireless world. At the end of 2004, according to data released in the new ITU Internet Report: The Internet of Things, there were over 710 million mobile subscribers in the Asia-Pacific region (up from 240 million in 2000) and compared with 571 million in Europe. Not surprisingly, both developing and developed Asia have taken up mobile services to create a host of new opportunities for operators, service providers, manufacturers, investors, and users. These countries are also leaders in the adoption and promotion of mobile multimedia services delivered over both low-speed and high-speed mobile connections (eg i-mode). China boasts the world’s largest mobile market followed by the United States and Japan; it added 35 million mobile phone subscribers in 2004, raising the total number of subscribers to 335 million at the end of the year. China represents over 47 per cent of the regional market. Its neighbour, India, with a population of over a billion, represents the largest untapped market in the world for mobile services. It had over 47 million users at the end of 2004, and ranks 9th in terms of mobile penetration worldwide. If current growth rates continue, China and India will create national markets of gigantic proportions over the next few years. Still, much remains to do to deliver on the promise of connectivity to rural and underserved areas in the region, as overall penetration per capita is still low, at 18.6 per cent at the end of 2004, compared with 42 per cent in the Americas and 72 per cent in Europe. The Asia-Pacific region can also claim the honour of being the first region worldwide to deploy 3G networks. Asia-Pacific is, as well, a leader in high-speed mobile and is home to the first 3G networks in the world. Japan’s NTT DoCoMo introduced IMT-2000 (3G) next generation cellular, with the commercial launch of its FOMA service in October 2001, and was the world’s first commercial launch of 3G mobile based on Wideband CDMA (W-CDMA). Korea was first to launch CDMA 20001x in October 2000. At the end of 2004, Japan had 25.7 million 3G subscribers (representing 28 per cent of all mobile subscribers) and Korea had 27.5 million 3G users (representing 75 per cent of all mobile subscribers). The region as a whole accounts for 48.6 per cent of all 3G subscribers, followed closely by the Americas at 44.6 per cent (entirely based on CDMA2001x). High-speed: mobile but also fixed The high-speed nature of the Asia-Pacific region, however, is not limited to the mobile phone. Broadband connections in Asia still outnumber European and American connections – 41.1 per cent of the world's broadband subscribers live in the region, and in 2004, the total number of Internet users, including dial-up, in Asia-Pacific surpassed for the first time the number of users in the Americas. The cheapest prices for broadband are also found in Asia, with Japan, Korea and Taiwan (China) offering the lowest fees for 100kbit/s, according to the new ITU Report. The provision of high-speed wired access to the Internet is also encouraging the take-up of wireless mobility networks, such as WLAN. Beyond mobility to ubiquity As mobile and broadband connections continue to grow, developments to expand the ubiquity of networks are underway, through object-to-object communications. Much of future network traffic may indeed flow between devices and all kinds of “things” (eg household objects like toothbrushes or keys), thereby creating a much wider and more complex network of things, or “Internet of Things”, the core subject of a new ITU report. Radio-frequency identification is one of the core technologies to begin realising this vision. In a “smart home” enabled by sensors and RFID, for instance, one might find automated heating controls that can sense when residents are out of bed in the morning, a remote voice control for turning on or off all home appliances, a washing machine that detects washing requirements; a smart toilet that can test urine and send data to medical professionals over a wireless network and so on. One of the key national leaders of this “ubiquitous” vision for technology is Japan. For policy-makers and technology developers in Japan, ubiquity relates to the extension and expansion of wireless technologies, that is to say a shift away from the mobile or PC device itself, to a greater consideration of the interaction between handsets and other devices and networks. The relevant fields are numerous: the environment, distribution, road traffic, robots, home information, finance, foods, medication, the elderly and the handicapped, labour, science, technology and education. The Government estimates the total value of ubiquitous industries and market to be of the order of JPY 30.3 trillion in 2005 (USD 278.4 billion), growing to JPY 84.3 trillion (USD 774.5 billion) in 2010. Japan’s vision calls for the connection of optical communications, mobile and consumer electronics, to a single network. The Japanese MIC is focusing on three key research and development areas: - Microchip network technology: network technology that enables connection control of the large volume of microchips, which enable all devices to connect to the network ; - Ubiquitous network authentic-ation and agent technology: authentication and agent technology makes it possible, using contactless cards, to instantly identify individuals. In turn, it allows individuals to use any terminal anywhere, and for that terminal to have, effectively, the same configuration as their own terminal; - Ubiquitous network control and management technology: technology to control and manage the network will allow the user to connect to the network anywhere, anytime. An optimal communication environment is provided based on the situation of each specific user. Similarly, in the Republic of Korea, Mr Daeje Chin, the Minister for Information and Communication, recently declared that the RFID business would be “as important as the mobile phone business.” Like Japan, the South Korean government has also developed a strategy to build ubiquity into its national technological vision. Known as Plan 839, the strategy consists of three layers intended to promote eight services, three infrastructures and nine growth engines. The eight services include the portable Internet (WiBro or wireless broadband), mobile television (DMB), home networking, vehicle-based information systems (telematics), radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, W-CDMA mobile telephony, digital television broadcasting, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services. It seems that the Asia-Pacific region is not only home to the largest percentage of the world’s connected and mobile population, but also serves as a test bed for cutting-edge services and technologies. As such, it is the region to watch closely as increasingly ubiquitous mobile applications make their way to market.