ARPU taking a hit in Indonesia amid pricing wars

 An intensifying battle between mobile and fixed-line services is increasing price-based competition in Indonesia, with the result that although subscriber numbers continue to rise, customers are spending less...

An intensifying battle between mobile and fixed-line services is increasing price-based competition in Indonesia, with the result that although subscriber numbers continue to rise, customers are spending less. According to BMI, this was the trigger factor for the merger of Smart Telecom and Mobile-8 in March 2011, and further consolidation is expected.

Meanwhile, recent initiatives such as the licensing of VoIP and IPTV services and the announcement of a new accelerated economic development plan (MP3EI) have been touted by the research firm as overdue recognition of the ICT sector's relevance to ensuring growth in a host of industry verticals that are themselves driving economic expansion. Operator-motivated moves to stay ahead of the curve by developing cloud computing services should also stand the market in good stead and improve its position as an ICT hub in the region.

However, there are mixed messages coming from the government regarding the licensing of 4G mobile services based on 4G technology. In August, it seemed that LTE licensing would be delayed by several years in order to protect investments in the rival WiMAX technology. But, in late October 2011, the government permitted Indosat to trial an LTE solution from Nokia Siemens Networks.

The MP3EI reflects the considerable work done by incumbents Indosat and Telkom in augmenting and expanding their core networks. Telkom, in particular, is making rapid progress in deploying an all-new all-IP next generation network, with cloud computing, mobile broadband and IPTV services representing three key growth pillars for the company's long-term future. Cloud and IPTV services were both launched in the first half of 2011.

Mobile operator XL Axiata was granted additional spectrum in early 2011; this will give it the opportunity to compete on a level playing field with Telkomsel and Indosat. Nevertheless, there is no beating Telkomsel in the mobile market, even when adding Bakrie Telecom's limited mobility services to the analysis. Bakrie has also just acquired 3.3GHz spectrum that it claims will help it launch 4G mobile broadband services. And with Telkomsel and Indosat reporting very strong take-up rates for BlackBerry smartphones and related services, it is clearer than ever that it is broadband that is now the real growth engine in Indonesia's rapidly maturing market.

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