3G growth rate in very high in Asia

3G is the third generation of telecommunication hardware standards and general technology for mobile networking, superseding 2.5G. It is based on the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) family of standards under the IMT-2000.

3G networks enable network operators to offer users a wider range of more advanced services while achieving greater network capacity through improved spectral efficiency.

According to some industry observers, Third-Generation (3G) in Southeast Asia, namely Malaysia and Singapore--currently the only two markets where such services are commercially available--has seen starkly different uptakes.

Figures from Singapore's industry regulator Infcomm Development Authority, indicate that, as of end-April, 8 percent of the country's 4.4 million mobile subscribers are 3G users--or over 360,000 users.

Alayne Wong, Asia-Pacific communications research manager at IDC, calls these numbers very encouraging.

"At the end of last year, only 4.1 percent of mobile lines were 3G. In just a few months, this number has doubled," she said, noting that IDC expects this number to grow to 50 percent by 2010. "In addition, 3G services are relatively new in Singapore, having been launched for only over a year."

Nathan Burley, research analyst at Ovum Asia-Pacific, agreed that Singapore's 3G adoption was also growing relatively well. At the start of the year to March 2006, 81 percent of net additions were 3G, he said. This number reflects well when compared to the 98 percent in net additions figure across Western Europe--the world's strongest growing region.

But, it is tough not to compare Singapore's 3G uptake to its northern neighbor Malaysia, especially since both countries launched 3G services at about the same time.

In comparison though, Malaysia's rate of growth has been significantly slower.

According to Wong, as at the first quarter of 2006, only 0.6 percent of all mobile lines in the country are 3G.

This is double the 0.3 percent figure at the end of last year, but overall growth numbers remain very low. Wong attributes the poorer 3G take-up to the lack of national network coverage for 3G, which is unlike Singapore where there is island-wide network coverage.

Malaysia focused its 3G deployment on pockets of high-density areas, she noted, starting with Klang Valley--its government and commercial capital--and then to major cities including Penang, Malacca and Johor Bahru, including the North-South Highway.

3G networks offer a greater degree of security than 2G predecessors. By allowing the UE to authenticate the network it is attaching to, the user can be sure the network is the intended one and not an impersonator. 3G networks use the KASUMI block crypto instead of the older A5/1 stream cipher. However, a number of serious weaknesses in the KASUMI cipher have been identified.

In addition to the 3G network infrastructure security, end to end security is offered when application frameworks such as IMS are accessed, although this is not strictly a 3G property.

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