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Top APAC telecoms predictions for 2020

The 5G bandwagon is the talk of town, but 4G will remain the priority for much of Asia-Pacific, among other key trends that will shape telecoms markets across the region

The roll-out of 5G networks is gathering pace in Asia-Pacific markets such as South Korea and China, where the next-generation mobile technology is already available in major cities.

From 2020, other countries are expected to follow suit, with places like Singapore starting to assign 5G spectrum to local operators which are required to cover at least half the city-state by the end of 2022.

In this round-up of top telecoms predictions from industry experts, we look at the key trends that will shape the region’s telecoms markets in 2020.

4G is not going away

Despite the hype and potential of 5G in offering faster and low-latency connectivity for enterprises and consumers, Palo Alto Networks expects 4G to remain the priority for much of the Asia-Pacific region.

In some countries, 4G has only just been rolled out, so it will be some time before 5G networks reach critical mass. Based on forecasts by the GSM Association, 4G will still account for 68% of global mobile users by 2025 in Asia-Pacific. Many rural areas could still operate under LTE models, due to the longer range of 4G as compared with 5G’s millimetre wave.

Competition heats up in the Philippines

After years of relatively stagnant competition, the Philippines market is bracing itself for fresh rivalry with the entry of Dito Telecom as the country’s third operator. According to media reports, the company is expected to increase its investment to over $6bn with an eye on 30% of the market within its first year.

Peter Boyland, senior analyst at Opensignal, noted that although Smart has largely dominated the awards table in its reports, Globe has recently leveraged its fibre infrastructure to launch a 5G fixed wireless service. The Philippines market is set for big changes – and 5G will be a key battleground.

Malaysia’s fibre connectivity plan underway

Malaysia’s National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP), which aims to develop broadband infrastructure and ensure more efficient spectrum allocation, with a target of widespread download speeds over 30Mbps, should improve the mobile experience for local users from 2020.

However, with Malaysia’s download speed experience barely crossing the 20Mbps mark, according to Opensignal’s latest report, Boyland noted that the NFCP’s 30Mbps target is ambitious.

That said, the growing competition in Malaysia, a market ripe for consolidation with as many as six players in some cities, should put pressure on telcos to shore up the user experience.

The inexorable growth of India’s Jio plateaus

In Opensignal’s past few reports on the Indian market, it has seen Jio’s 4G availability rise inexorably to become among the highest in the world.

But as its score closes in on 98%, this rise is highly likely to plateau in 2020, allowing key rival Airtel to close the gap, according to Boyland. Meanwhile, both operators face a resurgence in competition with the merger of Vodafone and Idea.

Navigating the IoT minefield

Sensors and other internet of things (IoT) devices are expected to benefit from the arrival of 5G networks, which offer ultra-low latencies that will pave the way for applications such as autonomous driving, augmented reality and remote surgery.

In fact, Asia-Pacific is projected to be the global IoT-spending leader in 2019, accounting for 36.9% of worldwide spending, according to IDC. Yet even today, security can be an afterthought in product development.

Some connected devices continue to be shipped out with no viable means of receiving software updates and security patches, leading to common vulnerabilities that can be exploited easily. Palo Alto Networks expects this issue to be further exacerbated by the growing number of IoT security threats in 2020.

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