Four things you should know about the 5G game in Asia-Pacific

This is a guest post by Simon Lockington, director of global solutions enablement at Equinix Asia-Pacific

Industry watchers are predicting that 4G LTE subscribers in Asia-Pacific will naturally make the move to 5G’s faster network when the service becomes available post-2020. In Singapore, 5G networks are expected to be rolled out by 2020.

According to the recent Mobile Economy report from GSMA, Asia-Pacific – home to several markets of early adopters – will pioneer the move to 5G technologies and is projected to be the world’s largest market for 5G, reaching over 675 million connections by 2025. Why then, is Asia-Pacific and Singapore in particular, expected to be so far ahead of the pack? Here are four key drivers of 5G development in Asia-Pacific:

Asia-Pacific has a younger user base

Asia-Pacific has a larger proportion of younger generation compared to US and Europe. This younger generation, born in the Internet and digital era is right at home with digital devices and is more tech savvy – the babies that were raised with “iPad nannies” will grow up and expect to be managers with iPads.

This group also has greater demand for digital applications and services, such as social media, gaming, and online video consumption. They are both users and creators of digital applications that require more processing power such as voice recognition, voice interaction, virtual reality, and augmented reality which they expect to be applied to fields as diverse as online retailing, online gaming and robotics, just to name a few. These applications will need the network and bandwidth capabilities of 5G if they are to deliver on consumer expectations.

Savvy mobile users continue to want more speed

According to GSMA, the number of unique mobile subscribers will reach 5.9 billion by 2025 globally, the equivalent to 71% of the world’s population. In Singapore, there are a total of 8.37 million mobile connections, this means that 144% of the Singapore population is connected on mobile.

The up-take of 5G subscriptions in Singapore and Asia-Pacific will build on the current base of 4G LTE and digitally savvy mobile users who want speed, reliability and minimal latency to use their everyday applications. These are often data-heavy content sites likes Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube, that users expect to be delivered to them at constant high-speeds regardless of location.

Current 4G networks suffer large speed fluctuations throughout the day. Peak-hour usage can often be slow as massive amounts of data jam networks, while speeds can vary greater depending on whether a user is stationery or on the move. Bandwidth hungry users of smart 4G devices are therefore keen to make the quick switch to 5G which promises pervasive connectivity.

Building smart cities without legacy infrastructure

Singapore’s move towards a smart nation is creating demand for the country to optimise the effective use of resources and improve efficiency. As a smart nation, Singapore will require strong telecommunication network infrastructure to support the thousands of IoT devices needed to the city – from safety and security, roads and traffic control, to utility management. To manage these complex data flows, it will need to rely on a fast and robust network, and network operators hope that 5G will be the resolution to this.

Singapore believes that a future-ready and globally competitive digital infrastructure is the bedrock of its digital economy. What makes Singapore and Asia-Pacific stand out is that this region has such a pervasive mobile network that have not been hindered by legacy mobile infrastructure. This has made it easier for governments and enterprises to roll out new infrastructures without having to attempt to upgrade old technology or migrate users over. China for instance is a great example of this – Ping An, Alibaba, Tencent and Huawei are leading a smart city initiative covering 500 cities across the country, all of which are based on new, mobile technologies.

Burgeoning R&D in the region

Many Asian and foreign companies have already started investing in 5G projects across the region as they rush to be at the forefront of what the technology has to offer. For instance, just a couple of months ago, local telecommunications company Singtel, in collaboration with Optus and Ericsson, successfully made a 5G video call with augmented reality (AR) between Singapore and Australia, taking a huge step forward in making 5G services to the masses.

Across the region, mobile operators are also planning to invest almost $200bn over the next few years to expand their 4G networks and launch new 5G networks to accelerate the growth of Asia’s digital economies and societies.

Realising the benefits of 5G

With 5G devices and 5G infrastructure set to bring about change, how will these new mobile services and applications impact different verticals? Here are two verticals that in my opinion, will be most impacted.

  • Content and digital media – According to Intel, the global media industry stands to gain $765bn in cumulative revenues from new services and applications enabled by 5G. 5G will offer faster, more stable connectivity with more bandwidth, enabling content service providers to offer superior experiences when watching high-quality videos. It will also enable innovative applications such as virtual reality and augmented reality to be created to deliver more personalised customer experiences.
  • HealthcareCurrently, healthcare providers already rely on 4G to access digital patients’ records such as X-rays. With 5G, healthcare providers can remotely monitor patients and gather data in real time by using the internet of things (IoT) devices to help them allocate the right resources more efficiently and improve personalized and preventive care. In addition, with artificial intelligence and big data, patient data can provide valuable insights to help make the right diagnoses and lifesaving decisions in real time, even performing remote surgeries and medical procedures with ultra-low latency.

Interconnection: the weapon of 5G game

5G is coming but in order to get the maximum business value from this highly anticipated technology, what weapon can enterprises use to stay ahead of the 5G game? The answer is simple – interconnection.

To support 5G demand, a vendor-neutral co-location and interconnection platform will enable enterprises deploying 5G to seamlessly access robust network and cloud ecosystems. With interconnection, enterprises will be able to directly interconnect with network and cloud service providers and find that fine balance of improving network and application performance with low-latency connections with cost efficiency.

The real-time, secure and low latency connectivity will enable companies to realise the benefits of 5G to transform their businesses, and ultimately bring more revenue opportunities. 5G, combined with interconnection, will bring disruptive transformation to different verticals.

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