Enabling the Malaysian Networked Society (continued)
In my previous post, I introduced the four key enablers being considered by the Malaysian Economic Transformation Plan for the country’s ICT sector. These include policy enablers that support the vision of ubiquitous mobility, broadband and the cloud; technology enablers for realizing such a vision; business-model enablers to ensure commercial viability; and ethics enablers that make the vision sustainable. In this post, I will elaborate on the first two of these.
Relatively speaking, policies in Malaysia are advanced and progressive in terms of ICT development. The industry has come a long way with the help of policies derived from the Vision 2020 and the Multimedia Super Corridor initiatives. I would have to add that the ministry and government agencies have done phenomenally well to drive the proliferation and adoption of ICT services. However, the lab members knew that certain policies needed to be refreshed. An example of this was to amend certain acts relating to the treatment of telecommunications infrastructure as a necessity in the building of homes and offices. Up until recently, it was commonplace that keys were handed over to property owners without basic telecommunication services. Today, this is deemed unlawful in Malaysia as both telephony and broadband services are required for the certification of fitness of a property – just as it is for electricity and water supply. The onus is now with the property developers to ensure that these services are made available before they can collect the final progress payments for their homes. This is a key achievement in the Broadband for All initiative.
Another policy that was discussed relates to the effective use of scarce resources such as frequency spectrum. Again, Malaysia was already a leader in the region by aligning with global standards. The GSM standard and the alignment of the 850, 900, 1800 and 2100 MHz spectra has made devices, applications and infrastructure ubiquitous and enabled not only the over 6.4 billion connections that we have in the world today but also the 9.1 billion that we expect by 2018. The same is happening for mobile broadband – with over 2 billion connections worldwide for 3G and 4G technologies. However, as more people are connected to mobile broadband with ubiquitous devices and bandwidth-hungry video applications, policies need to align to ensure there is enough spectrum to handle the required coverage and capacity for the users. Again, Malaysia has done the industry a service here by aligning with forward-thinking policymakers in the Asia Pacific Tele-community (APT) who are aligning with the use of the 700MHz band for mobile broadband. This is a vital and critical milestone in ensuring ubiquitous broadband and cloud services for all, bridging the digital divide. Broadband and cloud devices and services will become even more affordable, accessible and available once this spectrum becomes available in the near future.
Moore’s Law says that processing capabilities will double each year to meet the demands of users. That’s consistent with the Ericsson Mobility Report that finds video traffic alone is growing at around sixty percent annually. Such improvements are benefiting our industry by making mobility, broadband and the cloud accessible to nearly everyone. With further developments in open-source and open standards, advancements in application, device and infrastructure platforms will soon make ICT truly ubiquitous.
The industry has been collaborating and pioneering to develop these kinds of platforms and technologies and we are already seeing high-quality smart devices for less than USD 100 being introduced into the market by various manufacturers. With mobility and broadband becoming more widespread, adoption of cloud applications is becoming mainstream. Devices are getting smarter and more affordable but there is the potential to make them even more affordable by relying more on the cloud. Almost any form of computing can be offered as a service, from processing and storage, to applications and security.
At Ericsson, we have taken the lead in implementing cloud-based technologies into all our network elements and are actively involved in driving the standards for carrier-based Software Defined Networks (SDN). Such standards and capabilities promise better performance with reduced hardware requirements as well as simplified operations and management. We are also discussing the future of broadband with the term 5G, where standards will be developed to ensure various network elements and technologies work together seamlessly to deliver the service levels required by users.
Malaysia is already adopting some of the latest and greatest that the industry has to offer. With the National Broadband Initiative, the government has a sound plan to further bridge the digital divide laying the foundations for the enabling platforms and infrastructure to be put into place. However, there is a long way to go in terms of ensuring that broadband is delivered at acceptable quality levels and at the right price points. With home-broadband penetration at close to 60 percent in Malaysia and a high demand for video applications, the networks are becoming the bottleneck. Dimensioning network capacity is always tricky, especially when users are mobile. We addressed this in the ETP lab and we knew then that networks had to be smarter. The Smart Networks initiative was created to balance between quality, affordability and commercial viability.
To realize the Smart Networks initiative, broadband service providers need to have the capability to ensure end-to-end quality of service. Even today, we observe that most networks are designed to have intelligence at the core and are not addressing the access network bottlenecks (where the antennas or optical network units are located). Service providers are beginning to realize that they need the access network to handle congestion in a smarter way and be able to prioritize and manage traffic accordingly. Other measures of improving the quality include caching, compression and media delivery capabilities to optimize the network capacity. Device platforms and browsers must also be optimized to improve the overall experience.
Mandatory quality of services levels are being implemented to ensure broadband service providers meet their brand promises and we have already experienced drastic improvements in fixed broadband services. The silver lining is starting to appear with mobile broadband as well, with service providers investing not only in coverage, but on improved service quality.