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Finland marked down on broadband

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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

The mobile internet will be "one of the major [telecoms] demand drivers of this century" according to a new report from the International Telecommunication Union. And countries such as Hong Kong which can display a combination of high existing internet and wireless usage and infrastructure, and open telecoms markets, will be among those that realize the benefits of the mobile internet first.

In the report released yesterday, "Internet Reports 2002: Internet for a Mobile Generation", Hong Kong came out on top of a list of 171 countries that were measured against a variety of factors that the ITU believes will influence how quickly or slowly they will enjoy the benefits of 3G technology, and the wider mobile internet.

In compiling its index, the ITU used 26 separate indicators to profile the different national tele-economies, putting the most weight behind the state of each country's present internet and wireless service infrastructures. However, the Geneva, Switzerland-based telecoms policy arm of the United Nations, also factored in the influence of factors such as present infrastructure usage, and current market structures.

The consequent index listing makes interesting reading, containing a number of entries that will raise few eyebrows, but not a few others which may also come as a surprise to many observers. For instance, although Hong Kong's position at the top of the list, with a weighted average score of 65.88 points over all 26 indicators, is not entirely unexpected, the relatively lowly position of Japan in 20th spot with an average score of 54.94 may come as a surprise to many.

According to Lara Srivasta, an ITU policy analyst, and lead author of the new report, Japan's 50 million plus subscribers to mobile internet services might certainly be expected to put it near the top of any mobile internet ranking. However, since no other market has yet to really roll out mobile internet services per se, it was left out of the index ranking criteria on this occasion.

Japan's position also fell down in a number of other areas, said Srivasta. The proprietary nature of its current mobile internet services means that it currently has no international roaming agreements in place - an important factor in the ITU's ranking criteria - and it also scored relatively poorly in the market structure measurements.

Other countries that failed to feature as far up the index as might have been expected included Finland, considered the home of wireless networking by many, but handicapped in the ITU listing by its relatively poor uptake of broadband services, which kept its average score to 61.22, and in 12th position overall.

However, the rest of the Nordic countries did manage to shine, with Denmark finishing second behind Hong Kong with an average score of 65.61, ahead of Sweden which averaged 65.42. Norway ranked sixth with an average of 64.67, behind fourth-placed Switzerland on 65.10, and the US in fifth on 65.04.

Further down the ranking, the ITU noticed some interesting discrepancies between some countries' mobile index position, and their normal macro-economic performance. For instance, Romania, one of the most impoverished of Eastern Europe's former Communist command economies, ranked 37th in the index, and Peru, one of Latin America's perennial economic strugglers, managed 39th.

In both these countries, internet and/or wireless usage belied their relatively poor per capita GDP levels, and both featured encouragingly open and developing wireless internet market structures. Over the course of the next several years it will be interesting to see whether these countries are able to convert there relatively advanced tele-economy ranking into real economic progress.

An executive summary of "Internet Reports 2002: Internet for a Mobile Generation" is available at itu.int/mobileinternet.

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