New ESCAP report shows disparity in Internet access and costs in ASEAN subregion

Despite rapid ICT development in some member countries, the ASEAN subregion is still facing formidable challenges in narrowing the digital divides and maximizing socioeconomic benefits from ICT investments, according to a new report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the National Information Society Agency (NIA) of the Republic of Korea.

The Pre-Feasibility Study on the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway in the ASEAN Sub-region: Conceptualization, International Traffic & Quality Analysis, Network Topology Design and Implementation Model was prepared to support the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway, which promotes seamless broadband infrastructure development in the region to narrow digital divides, create an enabling Internet ecosystem and facilitate implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs).

The Report shows that while countries with submarine cable landing points generally enjoy more affordable, faster Internet access of good quality, inland countries are not fully benefiting from the Internet bandwidth. As a consequence, the­­­ percentage of households with Internet access ranged from 86 per cent in Singapore to 5.1 per cent in Lao PDR and 2.2 per cent in Myanmar in 2014.

The price of Internet bandwidth that countries pay also varies significantly across the ASEAN region. Those with good submarine cable connectivity, such as Singapore, enjoy competitive prices at less than USD 10 per Mbps, while other less connected countries such as Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar pay USD 100 per Mbps.

The Report provides an overview of the ASEAN countries’ existing terrestrial fiber connectivity, broadband penetration – fixed and mobile – and Internet traffic. Based on the analysis, the Report highlights the importance o­f trans-border terrestrial fiber connectivity and the establishment of more Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in the subregion to manage Internet traffic and drive down costs. The report proposes that regional IXPs are set-up to be operator-neutral to encourage competition and innovative services.

In order to accelerate the subregion’s ICT growth and expand access to broadband services, the Report also recommends that trans‐border terrestrial links be established between; Indonesia and Malaysia; Lao PDR and the Yunnan Province of China; and Viet Nam and the Yunnan Province. Based on the geography, domestic infrastructure, international connectivity and the level of Internet traffic, the report concludes that Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam are well placed to act as connectivity hubs in the ASEAN region.

The findings and recommendations of the Report will be presented to ICT experts and policy and decision makers within the ASEAN subregion, in order to enhance ICT connectivity and support the development of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway.

This Report was prepared with funding from the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning of the Republic of Korea. Download the report: