Asia: A Promising and Challenging Market
Monday, January 05, 2015 | Comments

The Asia Pacific and Middle East regions have been among the most dynamic areas to do business, especially in the wireless two-way radio market. The regions comprise some of the most progressive and some of the poorest countries in the world. As 2014 came to a close, economic forecasts were improving and the need for two-way radio communications to support economic growth and public security needs was increasing, but challenges remain for the region.

Public Safety

As potential terrorist acts have increased the pressures on internal security and several natural disasters have occurred with devastating consequences, many governments have upgraded their communications systems to improve emergency response. The ability to respond quickly and effectively to any terrorist event or natural disaster is a top-of-mind issue for most governments. Political, economic, sporting and tragic events provided opportunities for governments to upgrade or enhance their communications capabilities and improve their services to protect the public.

The challenge for many governments is allocating sufficient budgets for proven communications solutions that provide the required reliability, performance and security for major events and public safety use. Some cities, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, have justified citywide TETRA systems for public security. Many other cities in Australia, India and Indonesia are buying Project 25 (P25) solutions to provide similar communications service and security needs.

Spectrum Regulation

Regulators in each country face pressure to find new spectrum to address the increasing needs of economically advancing countries. The traditional professional mobile radio (PMR) bands of VHF, UHF and 800 MHz continue to exist in all countries. Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) and P25 technologies continue to fit into those traditional bands. Several Asian countries have allowed TETRA to coexist with non-TETRA technology in the UHF band, which opens more technology choices for end users. Many Asian countries have narrowbanded the VHF/UHF spectrum from 25 to 12.5 kilohertz. Narrowbanding allows countries to double the channels available for reallocation to new businesses or user groups. Regulators also continue to encourage TDMA-based technologies to gain some spectrum efficiency by loading more users onto the existing channels, a viable alternative technique.

However, finding new spectrum or loading more users onto existing spectrum is only part of the answer. Other methods, such as migrating to a site-based frequency allocation system that allows for reuse of frequencies in different parts of the country, must also still be developed. This will aid in more efficient use of spectrum.

Enforcement of licensed spectrum will also aid in efficient use. Most Asian countries still do not have good enforcement techniques to discourage interferers or regulations that impose civil penalties on interferers. This results in existing users asking for more spectrum to get away from the interferers. Finally, regulators also need to recover unused or underutilized spectrum from licensees. Wireless demand continues to add pressure on regulators. Government officials and legislators should allocate more funding to their regulatory function so that they can adequately resource the regulatory body to better manage the entire wireless environment.

New and Old Players

PMR remains the reliable technology of choice for workgroup communications for public safety and heavy industries. Both TETRA and P25 technologies have been deployed in the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions and will continue to be adopted in the regions for many years to come. Many companies offer TETRA. In the P25 world, a few more manufacturers have entered the marketplace, and this open standard remains vibrant. The fast adoption of DMR shows the world’s insatiable demand for two-way radio that is cost effective and feature rich. Many new DMR manufacturers have entered the marketplace, making it one of the most dynamic markets for future growth. DMR technology will help many businesses and light industry be productive and safe, which will help economies grow.

Analog radio technology remains a viable choice for many countries seeking cost effectiveness, but the number of analog products is on the decline as end users are seeing the benefits of digital. The competitive environment in the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions will remain robust for customers seeking both analog and digital technologies.

New Technology

More recently, 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology has created a huge amount of interest and business activity in the region. Mobile video and broadband have been the Holy Grail for public safety for years, and they are finally within reach. Spectrum must be in place first before deployment can happen. Many Asian and Middle Eastern countries are still in the process of clearing the TV broadcasters, and they are close to assigning broadband channels. All of the countries have agreed to standardize on LTE technology.

This excitement, however, needs to be tempered because some vendors are overselling the promise of what LTE can do for public safety. There are business consequences to deploying LTE, which is a cellular-based technology. Many public-safety organizations understand the complexities of LTE deployment and are adopting a two-layer approach, where traditional PMR is deployed everywhere for voice, and LTE will be deployed in strategic areas for mobile broadband only.

A looming issue is the disparate mobile broadband spectrum plan for some countries. Most of the Asian region has adopted the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) band plan using LTE band 28, whereas some countries have adopted a different band plan or different LTE bands altogether for public safety, resulting in smaller economic markets. This may create a delay of supply and higher prices into those economic markets, as well as interoperability problems if other nations come to the aid of a disaster-stricken nation and LTE devices cannot be used across borders. In addition, it creates coordination challenges for interference mitigation across borders of neighboring countries.

With more manufacturers in the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions, competition will ensure that the best possible value is achieved. Manufacturers have long embraced open standards, and digital radio has matured greatly, helping users manage their life cycle costs and technology obsolescence. A wide range of products will remain in the region because of user requirements and budgets. The challenge will be selecting the right technology for a business. Two-way radio system implementations are on the rise, and mobile broadband is in its infancy. Both are seen as valuable tools for governments and enterprises to do their jobs more effectively, safely and productively. During the next several years, as Asia’s economies kick into higher gear, we can expect to see even more demand and competition in the marketplace.


David Lum is the director of product operations and regulatory support for the Asia Pacific and Middle East Region with Motorola Solutions, based in Singapore. He can be contacted at david.lum@motorolasolutions.com.



 
 
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