October 3, 2005

Broadband internet coming to mud hut near you…

Filed under: Marketing,Technology — Administrator @ 6:13 pm

This morning, as I was getting ready for work, I was watching CNBC when a commercial for Thailand based (and owned by the Thai Prime Minister) Shin Satellite’s IPSTAR interrupted a spicy report about how China and India are dooking it out over global oil rights….

My understanding of IPSTAR is that it will offer digital high-speed internet access using Internet Protocol (IP) to all of Asia – in short, broadband internet. It so happens that China is IPSTAR’s biggest market in the Asia-Pacific Region and has more than 25% of its capacity over China.

Back to the commercial…

…the first frame shows a little Chinese girl making dinner for her family, a bunch of farmers…the second frame shows the girl surprising her farming family with a pizza…the third frame shows the farmers trying to eat the pizza with chopsticks…and then some kind of voice over…

…in the fourth frame the camera pans back on the girl who is now standing back in her kitchen, rolling pizza dough with a big smile on her face…in the final frame the camera pans even further back and reveals that adjacent to the side of this kid’s hut is an IPSAT satellite dish…

After a good five minute laugh-athon I asked myself a couple questions: (1) Is IPSAT onto something here or are they “pissing against the wind” (at least in China)? and (2) Is the China market ready for this or is it too early?

I searched for a quick and dirty answer and came up with an experience that happened to me 12-years earlier. At the time (1993) I was studying Chinese at Nankai University, Tianjin, PRC and some classmates and I went on holiday to Inner Mongolia. We wanted to locate the famed Genghis Khan Mausoleum but instead we found a tiny village of mud huts and small horses. We spent the night huddled together (not for warmth but because the rug they gave us only covered 20% of the dirt floor) in a Mongolian style tent. Just as the last drop of formaldehyde infused beer was consumed we heard screeching, clapping and music. So a couple of us got up and meandered over to the hut bellowing this noise. We opened the flap, looked inside, and to our surprise we saw a massive boom box that would have put a smile on late great Jam Master Jay’s face…

Turning back to IPSTAR and wondering whether or not it will be successful in China (where only 40 million households make more than US$12,000 per annum)… I am left with the image of that “Boom Box” banging away in the Mongolian night 12-years ago…and my gut feel is that if these guys from Inner Mongolia were in the ad they would have figured out by now how to eat pizza with there hands but since the majority of peasant farmers are not from Inner Mongolia…I wouldn’t be long IPSAT…

In fact, I bet IPSAT’s China business will experience the same fate as satellite phones and Global Crossing did 4-years ago…last guy out the door don’t forget to shut off the lights. Reality check: How are these guys going to figure out how to hook up the cable box when they are sill using chopsticks to eat pizza…hell, I’m still trying to figure out how to adjust the clock on my VCR…

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