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5G connections in APAC to surpass 400 million by 2025

The number of 5G connections in Asia-Pacific will grow to more than 400 million by 2025, but a usage gap due to the lack of digital skills and affordability will still exist

5G adoption is set to grow across Asia-Pacific, with more than 400 million 5G connections, equivalent to just over 14% of total mobile connections, by 2025, according to the Mobile economy Asia-Pacific 2022 report by the GSM Association (GSMA).

Today, 5G is commercially available in 14 markets, with others, including India and Vietnam, going live in the coming months. India is conducting a 5G spectrum auction this month, following trials by local telcos to test 5G applications such as cloud gaming, robotics and telehealth.

In pioneer markets, notably South Korea, 5G now accounts for around two in five mobile connections. Momentum has been boosted by a number of factors, including economic recovery from the pandemic, rising 5G handset sales, network coverage expansions and overall marketing efforts.

Amid the progress of 5G adoption across the region, monetising 5G remains top of mind for operators, according to the report.

The good news is that consumers are warming to 5G, and are increasingly adding content and services such as live sports to their 5G plans, based on findings from a separate GSMA consumer survey.

Immersive experiences, which take advantage of the low-latency and high-bandwidth capabilities of 5G networks, are also gaining traction among consumers. Entertainment experiences such as concerts, and gaming labs, which customers pay a premium for in the physical world, provide avenues for operators to demonstrate the value of 5G.

Still, a usage gap exists. At present, mobile broadband networks cover around 96% of the region’s population, a testament to operators’ investment in 3G, 4G and, increasingly, 5G infrastructure. However, just 44% of the population – more than 1.2 billion users – are using mobile internet services.

Read more about 5G in APAC

  • India’s upcoming spectrum auction marks the start of larger scale deployments of 5G in the subcontinent, but telcos will need to find a way to address high infrastructure costs and monetise their investments.
  • 5G adoption in Australia is taking place in the industrial arena and other sectors, but telcos will need to transform themselves and overcome cost challenges to drive wider adoption.
  • Singapore’s public sector organisations are testing the use of 5G connectivity to remotely operate an autonomous vehicle for road-sweeping, among other use cases.
  • Thailand’s state comms technology joins consortium of network firms to develop “Silicon Beach”, with end-to-end 5G private network.

The reasons for this discrepancy include a lack of digital skills, affordability and online safety concerns. This year’s report outlines how countries are addressing this usage gap, such as digital inclusion programmes in Singapore to train seniors on using digital services.

“Addressing the usage gap and extending the benefits of the internet to more people in society is critical,” said GSMA’s head of Asia-Pacific, Julian Gorman.

“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,” he added.

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