Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2012
 
   
H. Connectivity
 
H.1. Information and communications technology

The development of information and communications technology (ICT) in the Asian and Pacific region continues at a high rate, catching most developed regions of the world. Today, more than half of the mobilecellular subscriptions in the world are located in the region. The ubiquity of mobile telephones and affordable communications contributes to the empowerment of previously marginalized and poor people through an increase in people-to-people connectivity and a facilitated exchange of knowledge. However, even though more people are now online, thanks to the rapid uptake in mobilebroadband technology, large disparities in terms of ICT access and use continue to exist in the region.

Mobile-cellular subscriptions in Asia and the Pacific have been growing exponentially in the last 10 years, with the most rapid growth taking place in North and Central Asia.

Mobile telephone penetration rates, defined as mobile-cellular subscriptions per 100 population, have been rising since 1995 in the region, and have risen more rapidly over the last decade. This phenomenon can be attributed to a number of factors, such as higher income levels, lower costs of equipment and subscriptions, and a change in lifestyles. Falling subscription costs are largely due to increased competition and evolution in the business model of mobile operators, in which the lower average revenue per user is compensated for by the increase in the number of subscriptions. As a result, mobile telephones have become ubiquitous in many countries. In 2012, the mobile-cellular subscription rate was over 70 per 100 population in 34 countries in Asia and the Pacific, and over 100 in 23 countries.

Figure H.1-1
Mobile-cellular subscriptions, Asia and the Pacific and the world, 1995-2012

Figure H.1-1 Mobile-cellular subscriptions, Asia and the Pacific and the world, 1995-2012However, there still exist large disparities in mobile-cellular penetration between countries. In the region in 2012, the number of mobilecellular subscriptions per 100 population was the lowest in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (6.9), Myanmar (11.2), Kiribati (15.6) and the Federated States of Micronesia (24.6), whereas the number was as high as 284.3 and 227.9 in Macao, China and Hong Kong, China, respectively. Within the Pacific subregion, considerable differences are found between countries. While Australia and New Zealand count more mobile-cellular subscriptions than population, the average subscription rate for the rest of the Pacific subregion stands at only 47.0 per 100 population. In North and Central Asia, the mobile-cellular market has expanded enormously; subscription expansion has surpassed the global average both in terms of the penetration rate and the speed of progress since 2004, and reached 155.9 subscriptions per 100 population in 2012.

In terms of mobile-cellular subscription penetration, the gap between highincome and low-income economies still exists but low-income economies are catching up.

In the Asian and Pacific region, the mobile telephone penetration rates in high-income economies have been distinctly higher than those in the three lower income groups over time. For the low-income grouping, the 2012 mobilecellular penetration of 53.7 per 100 population was at the same level as the rate for the highincome grouping in the late 1990s.

Figure H.1-2
Mobile-cellular subscriptions by income grouping, 1995-2012

Figure H.1-2 Mobile-cellular subscriptions by income grouping, 1995-2012However, from 2005 to 2012, the growth of mobile telephone subscriptions in high-income economies stood at 5 per cent annually, while the average annual growth for low-income economies was over 43 per cent, with the total number of subscriptions for those economies increasing fourteen-fold for that period (from 12.4 million in 2005 to over 171 million in 2012). At 32 per cent, the annual growth for lower-middle-income economies during the same period was also significantly higher than it was for high-income economies.

Although the number of Internet users in the Asian and Pacific region has been growing, only 30 per cent of the population was connected to the Internet in 2012, with fewer than 8 fixed (wired)-broadband subscriptions per 100 population.

Between 2008 and 2012, the Internet usage rate in the Asian and Pacific region grew by 15.4 per cent annually, considerably more rapidly than the global annual growth rate of 11.2 per cent in the same period. Nevertheless, the penetration rate was still at only 29.7 per cent of the total population in 2012, leaving 3 billion people in the region – a number equivalent to almost half of the world’s population – not yet connected. Moreover, a large share of Internet users did not have access to fixed (wired)-broadband Internet. In 2012, fixed (wired)-broadband penetration was 7.4 per 100 population for the Asian and Pacific region, significantly lower than the levels for North America and Europe, at 28.5 and 26.2, respectively, and below the global average of 9.2.

Just as with mobile-cellular subscriptions, the region experiences substantial disparity in Internet access.

The region has the second-lowest Internet user penetration rate in the world. With a world average of 36 Internet users per 100 population in 2012, the Internet user penetration rate was the lowest in Africa at 19 per cent, followed by Asia and the Pacific at 30 per cent, Latin America and the Caribbean at 43 per cent, Europe at 71 per cent and North America at 82 per cent. Within Asia and the Pacific, Internet user penetration also varied significantly across subregions.

In 2012, 47 per cent of the population in East and North-East Asia, and in North and Central Asia were connected to the Internet. At 25 per cent, the Internet user penetration rate in South- East Asia was virtually half the rate of the two best performing subregions. Moreover, South and South-West Asia has lagged behind the other subregions, with an Internet user penetration rate of 14 per cent, which is half that of South-East Asia and only one quarter that of the two leading subregions.

For the Pacific, about 64 per cent of the population were online in 2012, ranking first of the Asian and Pacific subregions in terms of Internet penetration. However, most Internet users were in Australia and New Zealand. In fact, the Internet user penetration rate for Pacific island developing economies remained very low at 10 per cent, showing large disparities in terms of Internet access within the Pacific.

In recent years, growing Internet penetration has been largely led by active mobile-broadband1 services.

Mobile-broadband connections are relatively new high-speed Internet services that offer a variety of options to suit the purposes of different users.

Active mobile-broadband subscriptions
Per 100 population
Percentage change per annum
2010 2011 2012 2010-2012
South-East Asia
10.4
13.8
18.2
20.4
South and South-West Asia
0.1
1.8
4.3
236.8
North and Central Asia
27.6
40.0
44.5
17.2
Pacific
39.3
56.1
84.1
28.9
Pacific island developing economies
0.0
0.1
1.7
 
ESCAP
8.5
13.0
17.9
28.3
World
11.6
17.0
22.3
24.4
Africa
3.0
6.4
9.2
45.6
Latin America and the Caribbean
5.5
11.0
18.1
48.4
North America
50.3
66.1
72.2
12.8
Europe
30.3
38.6
46.8
15.5

Users can connect to the mobile-broadband network using a peripheral device, such as a USB modem or dongle attached to a laptop computer, or simply via a mobile-cellular telephone or tablet that is connected to the Internet. Operators in most countries have upgraded the ICT technology from 2G to high-speed 3G and in some cases to 4G mobile networks, and offer both post-paid and pay-as-you-go services to supplement fixed (wired)-broadband Internet, to which a large number of people have limited access. With flexible price plans, mobilebroadband services have brought the Internet to a wider group of people in both urban and remote areas, which has resulted to a great extent in an increase in the number of Internet users in recent years.

Figure H.1-3
Number of Internet users, fixed (wired)- broadband and active mobile-broadband subscriptions, 2005, 2010 and 2012

Figure H.1-3 Number of Internet users, fixed (wired)- broadband and active mobile-broadband subscriptions, 2005, 2010 and 2012From 2010 to 2012, fixed (wired)-broadband subscriptions grew from 5.8 to 7.4 users per 100 population (an annual growth rate of 8.6 per cent), while the number of mobile-broadband subscriptions doubled from 8.5 to 17.9 users per 100 population (an annual growth rate of 28.3 per cent). Also, the annual growth rate of mobile-broadband subscriptions in the Asian and Pacific region was higher than the world average (24.4 per cent) over the same time period.

Within the region, North and Central Asia witnessed the steepest increase in the percentage of active mobile-broadband subscriptions, from 27.6 per cent in 2010 to 44.5 per cent in 2012. Markets for broadband services, including fixedline Internet services, were still untapped in South and South-West Asia and in Pacific island developing economies as the penetration rates in both remained below 5 per cent in 2011.

There is great potential for growth in mobilebroadband services in the Asian and Pacific region. With the rapid development of the smartphone and tablet industry and the great size of the market, double-digit growth in mobilebroadband services in the region is expected to be maintained over the next few years.

Box H.1-1
Price – a key driver for growth in the fixed (wired)-broadband market

Fixed (wired)-broadband penetration in the Asian and Pacific region has been growing continuously, albeit at a much slower rate than mobile-broadband services. It climbed from 4.1 subscriptions per 100 population in 2008 to 6.7 subscriptions per 100 population in 2011. Globally, at 8.6 subscriptions per 100 population, the fixed (wired)-broadband Internet rate was also relatively low compared with that of other ICT services. One underlying factor explaining this low rate is the cost: fixed (wired)-broadband services remain unaffordable for many, especially in low-income economies.

The International Telecommunication Union has collected information on the cost of ICT services with the aim of monitoring the level of ICT affordability using a composite “basket” called the “ICT Price Basket.”a One of the components of the basket is a fixed broadband sub-basket calculated from the price of a monthly subscription for an entry-level broadband plan (based on 1 GB of download volume) as a percentage of a country’s monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita. A higher figure means less affordable fixed broadband services.

Comparing affordability and the penetration of fixed (wired)-broadband Internet over time between country groups classified by income levels, it can be seen that penetration increases as fixed (wired)-broadband access becomes more affordable. For example, in 2008, in lower-middle-income economies there was a 0.5 per cent penetration rate and fixed (wired)-broadband Internet access cost on average 14.4 per cent of GNI per capita. As the relative price declined to 10.8 per cent of per capita annual income in 2011, fixed (wired)-broadband penetration increased to 1.2 per cent. Yet, at 10.8 per cent of GNI per capita the price remained unaffordable for a large number of people. The fixed (wired)- broadband affordability target set by the Broadband Commission for Digital Developmentb indicates that entry-level broadband services in developing countries should be made affordable, at a price of less than 5 per cent of GNI per capita by 2015. This would be a very challenging issue, especially for least developed countries where, in 2011, fixed (wired)-broadband subscription fees accounted for about one third of per capita annual

Table 1. Fixed (wired)-broadband sub-basket price as a percentage of GNI per capita, 2008-2011

 
2008
2009
2010
2011
LDC
155.2
130.1
31.5
28.7
Lower middle income econ.
14.4
14.1
10.8
10.8
Upper middle income econ.
7.9
6.0
4.1
4.1
High income econ.
1.0
1.1
0.9
1.0
Asia-Pacifi
6.6
6.3
4.1
4.1

Table 2. Fixed (wired)-broadband subscriptions per 100 population, 2008-2011

 
2008
2009
2010
2011
LDC
0.0
0.1
0.2
0.3
Lower middle income econ.
0.5
0.8
1.1
1.2
Upper middle income econ.
5.9
7.4
8.9
10.8
High income econ.
25.7
27.4
28.5
29.3
Asia-Pacific
4.1
4.9
5.8
6.7

Source: ESCAP, based on International Telecommunication Union, Measuring the Information Society 2012 (Geneva, 2012). Available from www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/publications/mis2012.aspx.

While GNI might be expected to grow, such growth might not allow the target of a price of 5 per cent of GNI by 2015 to be reached, unless fixed (wired)- broadband Internet services were offered at lower prices. From this perspective, national legislation and regulatory interventions should promote and support ICT investment and market competition in line with specific government policies to strengthen ICT developments such as ICT skills and content.

____________________
a Although the ICT Price Basket has some weaknesses, as documented in the International Telecommunication Union report Measuring the Information Society 2012 (Geneva, 2012), it provides a fair comparison between countries.
a In 2010, the International Telecommunication Union and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization jointly launched the Broadband Commission for Digital Development to address the issues concerning the deployment of broadband networks and services. In October 2011, at its fourth meeting, the Commission set four “ambitious but achievable” targets related to broadband policy, affordability and uptake to be achieved by 2015. See International Telecommunication Union, Measuring the Information Society 2012 (Geneva, 2012).
 

Box H.1-2 Information and communications technology development in landlocked developing countries and Pacific island developing economies

Asia and the Pacific is one of the most diverse regions in terms of ICT development. It is home to a number of ICT advanced economies — such as Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore as well as Hong Kong, China, and Macao, China — as well as countries with very low ICT penetration. In particular, landlocked developing countries and Pacific island developing economies are among the lowest performing economies in terms of ICT penetration. According to the 2011 ICT Development Index,a Bhutan, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu and Uzbekistan were landlocked developing countries and Pacific island developing economies that ranked below 100 of the 155 countries included in the 2011 ICT Development Index.

ICT development in terms of access and use in landlocked developing countries and Pacific island developing economies has been impeded by, among other factors, geographical and topographical constraints, as well as low levels of income. Looking at access to fixed (wired)-broadband Internet, for example, the penetration rate in 2011 in landlocked developing countries and Pacific island developing economies remained quite low at 2.4 and 1.2 subscriptions per 100 population, respectively, compared with the Asian and Pacific average of 6.7. Submarine cables are the backbone of global Internet network infrastructure, and, because they are landlocked, landlocked developing countries do not have a close access point to such infrastructure. Pacific island developing economies, in turn, may have similar geographical disadvantages due to their remoteness. Furthermore, the difficulties in accessing international Internet bandwidthb have led to high prices of fixed (wired)-broadband subscriptions. In addition, a large number of landlocked developing countries and Pacific island developing economies are among least developed countries. For those countries, the high fixed (wired)-broadband prices in relation to their income levels make fixed (wired)-broadband services unaffordable for the majority of people. For instance, in 2011, the cost of an entry-level subscription for fixed (wired)-broadband services was 22.8, 63.4 and 77.7 per cent of per capita income in Tonga, Nepal and Vanuatu, respectively. Moreover, there are landlocked developing countries and Pacific island developing economies in which prices for entry-level fixed (wired)-broadband services exceed GNI per capita, including Tajikistan (543.7 per cent), Kiribati (228.7 per cent) and Uzbekistan (187.5 per cent).

To cater to the demand for high-speed Internet access, users, especially individuals, have started to rely on rapidly growing mobile-broadband services. In Pacific island developing economies in 2011, there were six times as many mobile-broadband as fixed Internet subscriptions in Fiji, and up to nine times as many in Solomon Islands. The differentials were more extreme in landlocked developing countries, ranging from twice as many mobile-broadband as fixed Internet subscriptions in Azerbaijan, to 35 times as many in Uzbekistan, a country that shares borders with only other landlocked countries. However, mobile-broadband services are not a substitute for the fixed (wired)- broadband services as each answers different needs. Although mobile-broadband connections offer mobility to users, fixed (wired)-broadband networks provide higher access speeds with greater capacity and stability, which are essential particularly for businesses and users who require reliable, high-speed Internet connections. Thus, strengthening ICT connectivity infrastructure in landlocked developing countries and Pacific island developing economies is imperative. By taking into account their specific challenges, regional collaboration can be an avenue for landlocked developing countries and Pacific island developing economies to work together to find regional solutions that benefit all countries.

____________________
a International Telecommunication Union, Measuring the Information Society 2012 (Geneva, 2012).
a In landlocked developing countries and Pacific island developing economies, the approximate international Internet bandwidth in 2011 was 6 kbit/s per Internet user compared with the Asian and Pacific average of 10 kbit/s per Internet user (ESCAP, based on International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Database).

Further reading

International Telecommunication Union. Handbook for the Collection of Administrative Data on Telecommunications/ICT. Geneva, 2011.

–––––––. Measuring the Information Society 2012. Geneva, 2012.

International Telecommunication Union and others. Measuring the WSIS Targets: A Statistical Framework. Geneva: International Telecommunication Union, 2011.

Technical notes

Mobile-cellular subscriptions (per 100 population, percentage change per annum) The number of subscriptions to a public mobile telephone service that provides access to public switched telephone network (PSTN) using cellular technology. The indicator includes (and is split into) the number of postpaid subscriptions and the number of active prepaid accounts (that is, they have been used during the last three months). The indicator applies to all mobile-cellular subscriptions that offer voice communications. It excludes subscriptions via data cards or USB modems, subscriptions to public mobile data services, private trunked mobile radio, telepoint, radio paging and telemetry services. Aggregate calculations: Mobile-cellular subscriptions divided by the population and multiplied by 100. Missing data are not imputed.

Internet users (per 100 population, percentage change per annum) The use of the Internet by in-scope individuals in the previous 12 months. Use may be from any location, including mobile access via a mobilecellular telephone or another mobile access device. Data are based on surveys generally carried out by national statistical offices or are estimated based on the number of Internet subscriptions. Aggregate calculations: The number of in-scope individuals who used the Internet (from any location) in the last 12 months divided by the total number of in-scope individuals and multiplied by 100. Missing data are not imputed.

Fixed (wired)-broadband subscriptions (per 100 population, percentage change per annum) Subscriptions to high-speed access to the public Internet (a TCP/IP connection), at downstream speeds equal to, or greater than, 256 kbit/s. They include cable modem, DSL, fibre-to-the-home/ building and other fixed (wired)-broadband subscriptions. The total is measured irrespective of the method of payment. It excludes subscriptions that have access to data communications (including the Internet) via mobile-cellular networks. It should exclude technologies listed under the wireless broadband category. Aggregate calculations: Fixed (wired)- broadband subscriptions divided by the population and multiplied by 100. Missing data are not imputed.

Source

International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Database, June 2013 edition. The International Telecommunication Union collects individual country values from an annual questionnaire sent to government telecommunications/ICT agencies, and provides estimates of data on countries and years that are missing from the survey. Data obtained: 25 June 2013.

____________________
1 Active mobile-broadband subscriptions is the sum of standard mobile-broadband and dedicated mobile-broadband subscriptions to the public Internet. It covers actual subscribers, not potential subscribers, even though the latter may have broadband-enabled handsets.
 
Statistics Home Statistics Home
Statistics Home Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2013
Did you know?
Download chapterPDF format
Data tables Data table
Table H.1.1 Information and communications technology
Excel format
Online Database Home Online database
 Country profiles Home Data visualization: time-series (1990-2012)
 Country profiles Home Data visualization: selected demographic indicators (1980-2050)
Online Database Home Media coverage
Readership Questionnaire
Download previous version
ESCAP SYB2011 (9.2MB)
ESCAP SYB2009 (4.3MB)
ESCAP SYB2008 (2.8MB)
ESCAP SYB2007 (2.3MB)
Statistical publications
Contact us