Mobile Internet Is Booming In South East Asia

2 min read

Mobile Internet is booming everywhere, especially in South East Asia(SEA). It’s amazing how the statistics stack up and showed that SEA is the darling of mobile Internet. Statistics announced by Opera’s State of the Web report (full disclosure: I work for Opera) proved so.

The introduction of this special report says that:

Southeast Asia is a “rojak” (Malay for mixture) with different levels of Internet development. Singapore has one of the world’s highest broadband-penetration rates while countries like Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar lag behind.

With more than 500 million people, Southeast Asia is an presents an exciting opportunity for mobile developers and operators. Countries in the region have grown their mobile Web uptake significantly. The lack of broadband Internet infrastructure in some countries has contributed to the burst of mobile browsing. Heavy users often opt for the latest phone model that comes with 3G and it has become increasing popular for mobile operators to offer fixed-rate 3G packages, which consumers use to replace their broadband access.

Popular sites in Southeast Asia are a mix of international sites and local ones. Singapore has mostly international sites, while Vietnam has mostly Vietnamese in the Top 10. We also see a huge social network following in the region. Friendster, Hi5 and Facebook all ranked strongly. In our August report on the Long Tail, we showed that Friendster alone contributed to more than 50% of the monthly data usage in Indonesia.

Born and bred in this region, i am always amazed how quick users adopt to the latest handphones. There is an ill-attempted joke saying that you can scope up many fancy secondhand phones from the school kid here and sell it elsewhere in the world.

Looking at the statistics, Malaysia leads with 462.6% growth in users this year, followed by the Philippines (396.4% growth) and Indonesia (329.5% growth). Even though these statistics are measured solely on Opera Mini browser usage, it very much tells the story of Internet adoption as Opera Mini has a huge market share in mobile browsing.

So why is Internet browsing so big in SEA?

Firstly the telecommunication providers are taking steps to generate data income(to substitute voice call revenue drop). For example earlier this year, the biggest telco in Malaysia, Maxis ran a series of advertisements to promote broadband Internet usage, this might be the reason of Malaysia’s usage spike.

Another blessing in disguis was the less-than-ideal landline speed. Places such as Indonesia has huge appetite for Internet. So when landline couldn’t satisfy them, people went mobile broadband.

Thirdly would be because of the traffic condition of parts of SEA. Long hours in the car meant that everyone wanted to find something to do in rush hour, and mobile Internet answered the calling.

Last but not least is the status symbol of chic handphones. There are groups of people, young ones especially that scramble to buy the latest handphones ,this means that their handsets come equipt with 3G and HSDPA and what not.

Looking ahead in 2009, Mobile Internet will continute to grow as telcos continue to push their 3G services. Mobile Internet will be advertised as an ideal platform to acquire the latest services. From Location-based services to dating tips, from weather forecast to mobile games.