5G connections to jump to 400m in 2025
Trade group pushes technologies
5G connections in Asia-Pacific are expected to surge fourfold from this year's level to 400 million in 2025, while the industry's consolidation and the metaverse are gathering momentum in the region, according to a report by the GSM Association (GSMA), a group of telecom operators worldwide.
GSMA's "Mobile Economy Asia Pacific 2022" report indicates 96% of the region's population is covered by mobile broadband networks, driven by investment in the network infrastructure.
However, only 44% of the population are using mobile internet services. This gap reflects the lack of digital skills, affordability as well as online safety concerns.
"Addressing the usage gap and extending the benefits of the internet to more people in society is critical," said Julian Gorman, head of Asia-Pacific at GSMA. "However, it will require a concerted effort by a broad range of stakeholders, working together with mobile operators and other ecosystem players such as device manufacturers and digital content creators, to drive adoption and overcome the barriers we see today."
The report said mobile technologies and services generated 5% of the region's GDP in 2021, which equates to US$770 billion of economic value.
This ecosystem supported around 8.8 million jobs in 2021 and made a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with around $80 billion raised through taxation.
According to the report, the region is experiencing a rise in 5G adoption. 5G service in the region is commercially available in 14 markets, including Thailand, India and Vietnam.
The report predicted 5G connections would surpass 400 million by 2025, equivalent to just over 14% of total mobile connections. Progress is more advanced in countries such as Australia, Japan and South Korea.
The report said government bodies in the region have started outlining plans to harness the potential of the metaverse platform to increase the efficiency and quality of public services.
South Korea has plans to spend $187 million to create its metaverse ecosystem, while the Tourism Authority of Thailand leveraged the technology to boost tourism in the country.
Policymakers and regulators can fuel growth and innovation by establishing a flexible, forward-looking regulatory regime to support mobile network deployment and operations, said the report.
The metaverse also provides opportunities for telecom operators to capture added value by developing platforms, content and services in the metaverse, according to GSMA.
"Leveraging new and existing relationships to create partnerships within the telecoms industry and beyond will be necessary to capitalise on the potential of the metaverse," the report said.
Meanwhile, the report also highlighted the trend of consolidation among telecom operators in Asia-Pacific, which it said could provide opportunities for them to scale 5G.
Announcements regarding consolidation were made in at least five countries in the region over the past two years, comprising Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Thailand.
In November 2021, True Corporation Plc and Total Access Communication Plc (DTAC), the No.2 and No.3 mobile operators in Thailand, announced an amalgamation plan to establish a new firm to move into advanced technology.
"Scale is becoming increasingly important for operators, often being the main investment and strategic rationale for mergers in the industry," the report said. "For operators, building innovative partnerships is crucial in a period when the telecoms industry is looking to leverage next-generation technologies to drive new consumer and enterprise opportunities."