Page 1 of 9Tan Geok Leng and Suranart Tanvejsilp
Development agencies have long recognized the role of telecommunications in the economic and social development of communities and nations. The provision of universal telecommunication services is now built into every nation's development plans. The traditional approach was to construct a wired, copper-based infrastructure and extend that to places where there are pockets of population. Unfortunately, this turned out to be an expensive and lengthy process that has denied large segments of the population access to telecommunications.
Recent developments in mobile and wireless1 technologies have opened up new possibilities to reach the population at a faster rate and at a lower cost than with the traditional copper-based approach. In this chapter, we describe the capabilities of several types of mobile and wireless technologies that have made a big impact on nations developing their communications infrastructure. These technologies include mobile phones, Wi-Fi, WiMAX and meshed wireless networks. We then discuss the barriers to use of mobile and wireless technologies in many parts of Asia Pacific that are caused by language and literacy, as well as some efforts to overcome them. We conclude with a discussion of 'development-friendly' policies that policymakers can adopt to expedite the rollout of communication infrastructure and spur greater take-up of services and applications.
There are many different forms of mobile and wireless technologies in use today. These include Near Field Communications (NFC), Bluetooth, DECT, mobile phones, Wi-Fi, WiMAX, High Altitude Platforms and satellite telephone networks. Each of these have been designed and optimized to serve a certain market segment. There is no one single technology that is able to meet all of the needs of all of the people, all the time. The greatest development impact is obtained by deploying the most appropriate technology for the situation at hand. For example, Bluetooth is designed as a cable-replacement and it is very inexpensive, but it is capable of supporting only very short range communications of moderate data rates. In contrast, a satellite system is very expensive to set up but it is perfectly suited to cover vast terrains; on the other hand, it works only when there is a direct line of sight between the end-user unit and the satellite.
In this chapter, we focus only on those technologies capable of delivering voice and Internet services to a large population spread across a vast geographical area. Two very important and widely-deployed wireless technologies that meet these criteria are the mobile phone and Wi-Fi LAN systems. We cover these in detail and show how they serve different segments of the community. We also discuss the technological evolutions of these systems and show that the differences between them may diminish in the future.