Asia Pacific is on track to become the world's largest 5G region by 2025, led by pioneering 5G markets such as Australia, China, Japan and South Korea, according to the latest edition of the GSMA's Mobile Economy report.
Launches of commercial 5G networks in these markets beginning next year will see the Asia region reach 675 million 5G connections by 2025, more than half of the global 5G total expected by that point. Asia's move to state-of-the-art mobile broadband networks reflects the mobile ecosystem's growing value to the region's economy. According to the report, Asia's mobile industry added US$1.5 trillion in economic value last year, equivalent to 5.4% of regional GDP.
"The Asia Pacific region has experienced rapid migration to mobile broadband networks and smartphones over recent years and is now set to play a pioneering role as we move into the 5G era," said Mats Granryd, GSMA director general, as cited in a press release. "Mobile operators in Asia will invest almost US$200 billion over the next few years in upgrading and expanding their 4G networks and launching new 5G networks in order to accelerate the growth of Asia's digital economies and societies."
Asia 4G to grow rapidly ahead of 5G commercialisation
The early 5G launches in Asia, based on 3GPP Release 15, are expected to focus on enhanced mobile broadband services, supplementing the capacity and capabilities of existing mobile broadband networks, particularly in dense urban areas, the report says. However, 5G's next phase (3GPP Release 16) will lay the foundation to support a range of future 5G use cases and innovations, including massive connectivity and low-latency services such as Internet of Things (IoT), critical communication services (such as remote surgery, autonomous vehicles, smart grids) and virtual reality (VR).
As 5G commercialisation approaches, 4G also continues to grow rapidly and is now Asia's dominant mobile technology. The region is home to some of the world's most advanced 4G markets in terms of adoption, such as Japan and South Korea, as well as emerging markets such as India, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, which are seeing an accelerating migration to 4G. By 2025, it is expected that 62% of Asia's mobile connections will be running on 4G networks and 14% on 5G, says the report.
More than half of the world's mobile subscribers live in Asia Pacific, which is home to the world's two largest mobile markets, China and India. At the end of last year, there were 2.7 billion unique mobile subscribers in Asia, equivalent to about 67% of the region's population. This number is forecast to grow to 3.2 billion (73% of population) by 2025, with about half of the new subscribers added over this period coming from India.
Mobile industry a growing contributor to Asia's economy
The Asia Pacific mobile industry's US$1.5 trillion economic contribution in 2017 includes the direct impact of the mobile ecosystem as well as the indirect impact and the boost in productivity brought about by the increased use of mobile services and technologies. Mobile's contribution to Asia's GDP is set to rise to US$1.8 trillion by 2022. according to the GSMA report. In addition, the mobile ecosystem supported more than 17 million jobs last year, directly and indirectly, and made a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with almost US$170 billion raised in the form of general taxation.