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Global 5G subscriptions to hit nearly three billion by 2025

5G will account for a fifth of mobile subscriptions by 2025 in Southeast Asia and Oceania, underscoring the keen adoption of emerging technologies in the Asia-Pacific region

The total number of 5G subscriptions is expected to hit 190 million by the end of 2020 and 2.8 billion by the end of 2025, according to Ericsson’s latest mobility report.

In Southeast Asia and Oceania, 5G will account for 21% of mobile subscriptions by 2025, underscoring the keen adoption of emerging technologies in the Asia-Pacific region.

During a media briefing on 22 June, Ericsson’s regional executives noted that while 5G subscription growth in some markets has slowed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the impact is being outweighed by other markets where growth is accelerating.

“The current Covid-19 pandemic has challenged us to do many things differently and to move activities online to different digital platforms,” said Nunzio Mirtillo, head of Ericsson Southeast Asia, Oceania and India.

“This has led to data proliferation as well as a geographical shift of data traffic from downtown business and public areas to residential areas on both fixed and mobile networks. The crisis has also demonstrated the critical importance of connectivity,” he added.

Unlike previous generations of mobile technologies which are centred around consumer and personal communications, Mirtillo said 5G will serve not only consumers but also enterprises, particularly through the internet of things for which superior connectivity is a prerequisite.

During the Covid-19 outbreak, changes in behaviour due to lockdown restrictions have caused measurable changes in the usage of both fixed and mobile networks.

The largest share of the traffic increase, Mirtillo said, has been absorbed by fixed residential networks, which has experienced a 20-100% growth. But many service providers also noticed a spike in demand on their mobile network.

In a recent study conducted by Ericsson Consumer Lab, 83% of the respondents from 11 countries claimed that ICT helped them a lot to cope with the lockdown. The results show an increased adoption and usage of ICT services, such as e-learning and wellness apps, that have helped consumers adapt to new realities, underpinned by connectivity.

Looking ahead, while 57% of respondents said they would save money for financial security, a third planned to invest in 5G and an improved broadband at home to be better prepared for a potential second wave of Covid-19.

For businesses, Mirtillo noted that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of digitalisation, along with connectivity that would enable businesses to continue engaging customers and conduct business transactions online.

Additionally, the combination of 5G and digitalisation creates new opportunities for service providers to extend their businesses beyond connectivity into a variety of sectors ranging from healthcare, automotive to manufacturing.

Magnus Ewerbring, chief technology officer (CTO) for Ericsson Asia-Pacific, said: “Reliable, fast and responsive, 5G has the capabilities to empower new businesses and open up revenue streams for communication service providers. At Ericsson, we have been investing actively in R&D [research and development] to establish a wide portfolio of 5G products and solutions to enable our customers transition seamlessly to 5G and leverage the full benefits of 5G.”

In Southeast Asia, the projected value of the 5G-enabled digitalisation revenues for service providers will be approximately $41bn by 2030.

According to the GSM Association (GSMA), 46 operators in 24 markets had launched commercial 5G networks by 30 January 2020.

Julian Gorman, the GSMA’s head of Asia-Pacific, noted that social distancing and movement control measures during the Covid-19 pandemic could limit the ability of mobile operators to deploy 5G network sites, although he does not expect significant delays in launches.

Citing SmarTone’s 5G deployment efforts, Ewerbring said while telecoms workers from across the border in China could not enter the Hong Kong due to movement restrictions, Ericsson had workers in the territory who could access 5G sites.

He said Ericsson’s spectrum sharing technology also lets operators such as SmarTone deploy 4G and 5G connectivity on the same band via a software upgrade, alleviating the need to access a site physically.

Mirtillo added: “We’ve been able to keep all the networks up and running with the similar or even higher quality and better planning. And when you plan even better, you can be more efficient.”

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