APAC to see a tenfold rise in 5G mobile connections by 2030

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APAC to see tenfold rise in 5G mobile connections by 2030 as digital transformation gathers pace, GSMA report reveals. However, despite 96% mobile broadband coverage across the region, barriers in certain countries mean APAC still has one of the largest usage gaps in the world.

5G will account for over two-fifths (41%) of mobile connections in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region by 2030, up from 4% in 2022, according to the GSMA’s Mobile Economy APAC 2023 Report, just published.

APAC will have around 1.4 billion 5G connections

By the end of 2030 APAC will have around 1.4 billion 5G connections, with growth driven by a fall in the average price of 5G devices, rapid network expansion in many countries, and concerted efforts by leading governments to integrate mobile-enabled technologies into many aspects of society.

However, the annual mobile economy report also reveals that while mature markets, such as Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, are at the forefront of 5G mobile innovation, barriers continue to impact overall mobile access and usage in a number of other APAC countries. Despite significant improvements, the research shows that almost half of the population in Asia Pacific (47%) still lack access to mobile internet and with, the region lagging behind other parts of the world, including Latin America, China and Eurasia. Poor digital skills, particularly among older populations, device and service affordability, and online safety concerns are some of the reasons holding back uptake.

The Mobile Economy APAC 2023 Report

The Mobile Economy APAC 2023 Report, published during an event hosted by the GSMA and Singtel, in Singapore, highlights the key trends and forecasts shaping the mobile ecosystems of eight countries[1] in the region. Key findings include:

  • Mobile subscribers will rise by 400mn between 2022 and 2030 to reach 2.11bn; mobile penetration will also rise to 70% but still trail the global average of 73%.
  • Smartphone adoption will rise to 94% by 2030, an increase of 18% from 2022, driven by factors such as more affordable devices and improved digital literacy.
  • Almost half of the population in Asia Pacific (49%) is now connected to the mobile internet, but 47% of the population who could access mobile services remain disconnected.
  • The mobile sector added $810bn of economic value to the APAC economy in 2022 (just under 5% of APACs Gross Domestic Product) and will reach almost $1tn ($990bn) by the end of the decade.
  • 5G will add more than $133bn to the APAC economy in 2030.
  • The services (42%) and manufacturing (34%) industries will be the primary beneficiaries of 5G by 2030, driven by applications in smart cities, smart factories and the smart grid.

5G: the growing monetisation imperative

The report finds that as 5G adoption grows, the monetisation imperative will escalate, along with the need to attract new customers and incentivise existing ones towards higher spend. Extended Reality (XR) could be one key driver for adoption with augmented and virtual reality having the potential to usher in a new age of immersive consumer experiences, benefitting from 5G’s advanced capabilities around speed, latency and capacity. 5G fixed wireless access services provide further incremental revenue opportunities, particularly in areas with low fixed broadband penetration.

Mobile is fuelling fintech

The report also shows that Asia Pacific has one of the fastest growing fintech industries, from massive mature markets such as India to emerging ones, such as Vietnam and Indonesia. The continued growth in the fintech sector, especially following the Covid-19 pandemic, has improved the level of financial inclusion in the region, resulting in an increase in mobile money accounts.

Circularity gathers momentum

Growing concerns around the generation of e-waste and unsustainable levels of consumption of natural resources is making circularity a far bigger area of focus for policymakers and mobile industry players in the region. While the technical lifespan of a mobile device is now between four and seven years, the average use period of mobile devices is only around three years. The report highlights how governments and industry players have a key role to play in incentivising consumers and building out new channels to collect, refurbish and resell devices.

Policies for growth and innovation

To realise these ambitions and maximise the potential for growth and innovation in the region, policymakers can take action to rebalance the digital ecosystem and create fairer business conditions for mobile operators. Such moves can include lean and well-structured tax regimes, flexible licensing regimes and regulatory frameworks, and policies to close the digital divide and safeguard online spaces.

Spectrum availability and effective licensing continue to be critical to enable the investment required to expand mobile access, meet the increase in demand for data services and enhance the quality and range of services offered. The upcoming ITU World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 will provide the chance for policymakers to secure crucial spectrum resources for 5G expansion and build a long-term spectrum roadmap toward 2030 and beyond.

[1] The report covers Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.

Related article: APAC to lead 5G IoT market growth from now to 2030

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