5G: The roadmap to launch in Asia
Quah Mei Lee, industry principal – ICT, practice APAC at Frost & Sullivan, discusses the potential and challenges of 5G as a catalyst for Asia’s digital revolution.
By 2022, there will be 280 million 5G subscriptions in Asia Pacific, with 5G
service revenue reaching USD4.5 billion.
Compared to previous generations of networks, 5G’s significance lies in its
capability to offer real time end-to-end service offerings. Alongside the
emergence of technologies such as the IoT, drones, smart devices and with
increased mobile phone uptake, 5G has been seen as a key enabler of all these
by providing the infrastructure to carry large amounts of data, creating a
smarter and more connected world and also driving the digital economy.
For Asia, a region that has one of the highest mobile penetration rates in the
world, the potential for 5G to transform the region and advance the
development of smart cities is an exciting possibility set to become a reality
Upping the Ante
Asia presents a unique setting for 5G – a populous region with fast-growing,
increasingly-digital economies that have the desire for speed and connectivity.
5G will fundamentally change industries including transport, healthcare,
communications and supply chains.
Faster internet speeds at more cost effective pricing per gigabyte could enable
new business models and contribute towards economic growth and digital
economy transformation. For businesses, this presents new monetisation
opportunities – at 1,000 times faster than 4G, 5G could deliver smooth, HD
content in seconds and redefine audience engagement with real-time
For consumers, 5G technology could mean a real perceivable difference over
4G technology. By providing the processing capability and ultra-low latency
required for the consumer to fully experience a service offering, 5G could
change the face of AR/VR, as well as gaming in the most fundamental way,
particularly in Southeast Asia that is home to a booming e-sports and gaming
A fully connected world could also be made possible where a massive number
of devices can be connected simultaneously, enabled by 5G. The capability of
5G networks to manage large quantities of data at high speeds will realise full
potential of IoT, in smart sensors, wearables, and other devices.
Getting on board
Countries like China, South Korea and Japan are in the process of rolling out
5G across their cities, with other countries across Asia expressing keen
interest to do so. However, successful 5G implementation within each country
is an open question.
While countries such as China are well placed to develop and implement 5G,
for developing countries this could prove to be a challenge, where demand for
5G services is finite or limited. Though possible for developing nations to leap
frog to 5G, a key question to consider is the need for 5G within and beyond
government driven initiatives, particularly given that costs remain a limiting
factor and that mobile network operators are assessing the capabilities of 4G
before deciding to invest in 5G to supplement it.
Getting everyone on board 5G initiatives could prove to be a hurdle too.
Although 5G is fast gaining momentum, businesses are yet to see the
immediate need for 5G until its full benefits and opportunities for monetisation
become apparent. This could delay integration of 5G into solutions and service
Similarly, consumers still hold a ‘wait-and-see’ approach until 5G-enabled
devices and solutions are able to transform their lives in an impactful way –
such as the use of cost effective wearables, e.g. an augmented reality helmet
used by a blind person for safe navigation in real time or sensor triggered
braces that aid mobility in disabled people.
Despite the hurdles, early developments in 5G are already revealing new,
exciting opportunities that are proving 5G’s potential in various use scenarios
and allow us to go truly ‘wireless’.
Mobile network operators play a crucial role in the success in its
implementation. However it is necessary for them to understand the need and
therefore demand for 5G and focus on industries that can bring them the best
In line with this, support from governments and working with other
stakeholders within the ecosystem will be crucial to pushing 5G in their
In the future, the possibility of a mobile network that is seamless, converged
and offering end to end services at the right price points could be a reality.
Along with this, the leading edge use of artificial intelligence to drive safe and
secure real time service offerings could also become a real possibility.
The dream of an ultra-connected, efficient society is already in the making,
and if a smarter and more connected world is the future, then 5G could be the
highway to get us there.