KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AdAge.com) -- As cellphone users in many countries are getting used to the greater speed of the 3G mobile internet, telecom companies around the world are testing even faster 4G high-bandwidth services.
Malaysia's YTL Communications is a leader in this race. The Malaysian company is investing more than $700 million to get its 4G network up and running in that southeast Asian market by the end of this year, with help from global companies including Samsung, Cisco and Intel -- and Bartle Bogle Hegarty.
The IT companies will provide infrastructure and other technical expertise, but YTL recognizes the importance of marketing, too. Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Singapore, was appointed without a pitch. The agency will handle creative and brand strategy for the launch campaign -- one of the biggest ad accounts in Southeast Asia -- expected to kick off in the fourth quarter of this year.
Other 4G services have debuted around the world in pockets of countries as diverse as the U.S. and Russia, said John Hadfield, BBH's CEO, Asia/Pacific in Singapore. "But this will be the world's first nationwide, 4G network, enabling real mobile broadband. Convergence of voice and data through mobile hasn't really been done properly yet through 3G. It's a huge win for us."
Mr. Hadfield declined to say exactly how much YTL will invest in the launch campaign, but said the Malaysian conglomerate's budget will make YTL one of BBH's three biggest clients by spending, along with Unilever and the Singapore Tourism Board.
YTL is also working with WPP's digital agency, Agenda, and Aegis Group-owned Carat for media planning and buying. BBH will get on-the-ground implementation assistance from Alfa 245, part of Leo Burnett Group (Burnett parent Publicis Groupe also owns a 49% stake in BBH).
Mobile phone ownership in Malaysia is already about 100%, Mr. Hadfield said, "or even higher since some people have more than one phone account."
Malaysians also have shown strong interest in mobile internet. According to The Economist, only 7% of subscribers in Malaysia had a handset capable of connecting with a 3G network in 2007. That number jumped to 25% last year, and if "dongles" (devices that connect laptops to mobile networks) are included, 3G penetration is closer to 40%.