Asia Mobilises on Wireless Data Demand

By Clement Goh

The big data explosion is getting mobilised. The unstoppable rise of mobile usage and the hunger for new apps in the Asia Pacific region are driving all sorts of demand including for data centre infrastructure.

Thanks to the rise of tablet and smartphone adoption, mobile now accounts for 10 percent of all internet usage worldwide. The expectation is that mobile traffic will double every year up to 2014.

True to form, our Asian technology users who demand the fastest and latest gadgets have ensured that the Asia Pacific region is where mobile is most prolific, accounting for nearly 18 percent of total internet usage.

While over in India, it is forecast that traffic from mobile devices will take over fixed-line internet usage by the end of the year.

So with wireless device uptake in Asia Pacific outpacing all global metrics, the industry is now grappling with how this is changing the business of bandwidth.

The upshot is that the yen for wireless has created a virtuous circle of high traffic, demand for more infrastructure, user engagement and mobile device uptake. It is a good circle to be in.

Asia’s advanced wireless network investments and deployments of LTE, 4G and ubiquitous Wi-Fi mean that the user experience for new wireless devices is at an all-time, high level. Seamless and easy connectivity means that apps work better and encourages higher usage rates and more communication. The omnipresent nature of wireless networks in Asian cities means connectivity on the go is now a cultural imperative.

With the accessing of more data and information and the creation of higher data traffic comes the inevitable demand for data centres – the place where apps are being processed and run.

What we are seeing is that because of the increase in the access of information, content providers are adapting a more distributed model in their data flow. It makes a lot of sense to cache where there is lower latency when you have regional traffic instead of going all the way to the U.S.

Governments throughout Asia are already in a competitive race to make their cities the destination of choice to attract foreign data centre investment. Data center services in the Asia Pacific region were valued at US$10 billion in 2011, while web hosting and co-location were US$2.5 billion.

Shifts in Demand and Capacity

Demand for capacity from the wireless sector has already exceeded all expectations and carriers realise that there is a little bit of catching up to do.

Last year in Singapore alone capacity demands for Equinix’s data centres have been growing at rates which are tracking as the highest rate of traffic growth in Asia-Pacific.

The significant contributors to rising network traffic are carriers, no surprises there, but increasingly also rich content providers.

While cloud computing is certainly a driver for business grade traffic, it is the revolution in app and mobile content that is driving consumer traffic.

The challenge in these times of great connectivity growth is to ensure that we have the whole ecosystem ready for the shifts in demand and capacity.

If the stellar growth in the emerging Asian markets has taught us anything it is that having all our ducks in a row when it comes to connectivity, makes the most impressive result. Looking again at the virtuous circle, the foundations of having fast wireless network infrastructure, compelling and useful apps, and readily available devices all ensure that consumers will be there to drive demand.

Where we have seen the cycle break is when carriers invest in network infrastructure without co-ordinating with handset manufacturers to ensure that there are enough devices to support the new services.

What we are learning from this mobile led data explosion is that at the end of the day demand will be dependent on having the devices available to access the apps and the content. If you don’t have these co-ordinating and firing it will be hard to get things moving – you need both.

Cutting edge technology is useless unless there is an application and meaningful uses for it placed in the consumers hands- which is the key to driving traffic demand and keeping the data circle virtuous.