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A network revolution

Ross Milburn | April 27, 2011
Video and mobility are driving a network revolution, according to delegates at a roundtable discussion in Hong Kong in March, entitled ‘Empowering the 21st Century Network’.

CITIC also finds video very useful. “Our HR department wants to make training videos, but when we give them a network  implementation plan for four to six weeks, they say they want it ‘yesterday,’ and ask: Can we use Yahoo or YouTube?” said Franklin Lau, deputy general manager, group IT services,  CITIC Pacific. “Our IT spending is 20-30 per cent up on last year, and 20-40 per cent of bandwidth is due to video.”

Broadband mobile devices comprise the other trend that is driving traffic. “A common factor is executives using prosumer products like the iPhone, which we consider less secure than the Blackberry,” said Lau. “We supplied one iPhone, but after a PRC roaming bill came in at HK$9,000 [US$1,150] users were less enthusiastic.”

Every mobile device needs applications. Bandwidth and latency are not major issues for DKSH, but mobility and consumerisation of devices is. “The challenge is having to port network applications on the many new devices,” said Ring Ho, IT director, HK and China, DKSH Hong Kong.

The Grey Group also found it necessary to compromise between security and productivity. “If our users want to use smartphones or other devices, even their personal ones, it’s OK because they are happy and more productive,” said Trione Yuen, regional hub operations director, Grey Group. “But we make them sign an agreement on how they use them.”
DKSH adopted Blackberry, but there was a demand for alternatives. “We connect iPhones, but they need software to make push e-mail work,” said Ho. “Support is also affected: if you standardise on one device, you can save 30 per cent on maintenance.”

At present, the iPhone wins hands-down among users. “We tried testing iPhones against Blackberries and after three weeks, all the Blackberries were returned,” said Francis Fung, chief technology officer, Midland Holdings. “We also tested many phones from Nokia to see which can comply with push mail.”

Network control can protect data on mobiles. “Some of our senior managers use the iPad, and our own products are available on it, so we must support it,” said Wynner Liew, head of enterprise WAN and engineering, Asia Pacific, Thomson Reuters Corporation Hong Kong. “I am part of a pilot group testing the iPad and, if anything goes wrong on the network, we can wipe it.”

Cross-border Issues
Cross-border and roaming costs are an issue. “We have many offices in Hong Kong and the mainland,” said August Chan, head of IT, CASH Retail Management Group, “and the cost of cross-border bandwidth is 10 to 100 times more expensive than in Hong Kong.”


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