The Thai presence at CommunicAsia this year
was lively with the Sipa booth being one of the most
Story by DON
Tandberg Marketing Manager Deborah Wong shows
how teleconferencing can be used to run a receptionist, either
a human one (pictured) or a virtual one in a virtual
The underlying theme to CommunicAsia
2007 is all about the mobile web. Accessing the Internet and
generating content via the handheld mobile phone, has finally taken
off. Nokia has tried its best to avoid the term "mobile phone" with
many of its executives speaking of "what the computer has become";
carriers addressed the challenge of upgrading the network
infrastructure to support bandwidth beyond HSDPA and
Internet-focussed network security companies suddenly found
themselves catering for a few billion new customers.
The Thai presence at last week's CommunicAsia was quite lively
and visible this year. The ICT Ministry's Software Industry
Promotion Agency, Sipa, led a contingent of eight enterprise
software companies and five animation companies to Singapore. Sipa
vice-president Dr Niracharapa Tongdhamachat explained how
CommunicAsia was a major crossroads in the industry.
"We are doing a lot of G2G (government to government) agreements
with the IDA (Infocomm Development Authority) and MDA (Media
Development Authority), and at the same time we are talking about
digital content to companies from Canada, India, Australia, the UK
and Vietnam," she explained.
Sipa's other mission at CommunicAsia was to promote the
rescheduled Thailand Animation and Multimedia (TAM) and ICT Expo
which will be held between November 15-20 this year.
Arguably the Sipa Booth was one of the most colourful with gentle
pastel coloured fabrics where most others had hard, white
partitions. It was also popular among visitors as where other booths
gave out water or confectionery to lure in delegates, Sipa had
bought along a traditional ice-lolly machine.
Shin Satellite had a very large booth showcasing the benefits of
the IPStar broadband satellite and had bought along
Canadian-Australian John Hawker of Sat-Ed to showcase his Room for
Life project at a self-sustaining ICT minimart solution for rural
Sipa VP Dr Niracharapa Tongdhamachat led a
contingent of eight enterprise software companies and five
animation companies to CommunicAsia 2007.
The Room for Life is a profitable, self-sustaining, ICT minimart
franchise that offers services ranging from Internet access,
photocopying to Video-on-Demand and e-Learning. By using IP
broadcast (as opposed to point to point), the system can
economically deliver content on learning maths or planting certain
types of crops to be cached in the many centres where it can be
accessed at lightning-fast speeds.
Today, there are two Rooms for Life in the poor northeastern
province of Sakhon Nakhon with a further ten currently being set up
in the troubled southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat .
Hawker admits that IP Star is far from perfect, but it does make
the difference between self-sustainability and otherwise for his
projects to bridge the digital divide.
"I just got back from Ghana where we are working with the Digital
Partnership, the sister cities organisation of America, where they
have some problems in getting the site up and running. They want
self-sustainability but the biggest problem is the cost of satellite
bandwidth. For 192Kbps down and 40Kbps up, it costs $800 a month.
Here in Thailand, we get a megabit for around $80 a month. That $700
difference is pretty much the gap between self-sustainability and
non-self sustainability. The difference means we will have to have
larger centres in larger communities [than in Thailand]" he said.
Sat-Ed is also working with the World Bank, UNESCO and the UNDP
in countries ranging from Sierra Leone to Vietnam, Malaysia and
everyone has been supportive of the model, everyone that is, except
the Thai Government. "My fear is that Vietnam will have 1,000 sites
before we have 100 sites in Thailand. They don't understand us. They
confuse us with an NGO, but we are a businesses with a strong
business model to provide Internet connectivity, IPTV, video on
demand, access to education and jobs to remote communities," he
Away from the Thai presence, CommunicAsia featured everything
from satellites down to RFID-enabled health wristbands, those with
embedded metals and magnets, only these could be used for passage in
Korea's underground network as well as provide metaphysical body
The award for most witty name must go to SweDish, a Swedish (of
course) company that does mobile satellite dishes.
Sanyo was present and arguably had one of the busiest stands away
from the handset makers, giving out samples of its new
self-discharge resistant Eneloop batteries and puppy shaped battery
testers to those who succeeded in playing a game.
LG had their phones on display and quite a few Singaporeans were
somewhat annoyed that for once, LG had chosen to launch their newest
Shine phones in Bangkok a week before they were able to buy it. Of
course, they had a 3G version while our similar looking unit was a
2.5G device. It was probably a shoot-out between LG and fellow
Koreans Samsung as to who had the prettiest girls demonstrating
products at their booth.
IP telephony was also a hot topic with both solutions and
countermeasures being exhibited. Many solutions centred around the
SIP protocol with a single identity that followed the subscriber
around the office, to different devices, around the world. Also
present were companies that specialised in detecting VoIP and GSM
calls. They market to the carriers a service to make sample calls to
double-check if carriers were adhering to their interconnection
agreements and not making VoIP shortcuts.
Previously, the verdict was still out as to whether VoIP was a
threat or an opportunity to the industry. This year, it seems as if
the telcos have fully embraced data, and have reluctantly embraced
VoIP as a driver for data. Most feel it is obvious that if the
telcos do not do it, someone else will and leave the telcos in the
unenviable position of being nothing more than a data pipe.
Singapore mobile operator StarHub launched one such VoIP service,
Pfingo, but it was clear that it was just testing the waters as the
converged communications service currently only supports a small
handful of high-end handsets.
Of course, CommunicAsia is not just about the exhibition at
Singapore Expo, but one could say that the entire island-nation was
abuzz with activity as everyone scrambled to take advantage of the
executives, dignitaries and media that descended on Singapore for
the week. Nokia Connections was one not-quite CommunicAsia event, as
was the launch of Yahoo Mobile oneSearch and Yahoo Go on the other
side of town.
The embassies of Canada, China, France, Korea, the UK and hosts
Singapore threw a huge networking party which saw most of the Thai
delegation rub shoulders with the commercial counsellors and
secretaries from across the region. Stewart Gorman,
British Commercial Secretary to the Embassy in Bangkok was
present, busy making introductions, as were most of the staff from
the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok, each country vying to get the
attention of the somewhat outnumbered industry delegates.
90's pop superstar John "Nuvo" Rattanaveroj was also present and
commented how his current company, tricast.co.th, was a tiny player
when put next to the likes of BT, who now have diversified and do a
lot of broadcasting and content distribution, similar to John's
outfit, but brobably a few hundred orders of magnitude larger in
CommunicAsia 2007 had a bit of everything. From satellites to
RFID wristbands to meetings between all the movers and shakers in
industry, from polished enterprise-class services to start-ups with
piles of circuitry that showed promise.
A lot of the attention was also focussed on how Singapore has
been making great strides in the implementation of iN2015
(intelligent nation 2015), its 10-year infocomm master plan. This
year, Singapore made headlines by offering free nationwide Wi-Fi
access through the wireless@sg initiative, while more details of the
technology choices it will adopt to make the island city-state a
truly connected, intelligent nation, will emerge by the end of the