Asia Pacific mobile operators are to invest over $400 billion on their networks between 2020 and 2025, of which $331 billion will be spent on 5G deployments, according to the latest Asia Pacific edition of the GSMA’s Mobile Economy series. The report shows that the region is one of the fastest-growing in the world and home to over half of the total global subscribers.
Additionally, in 2019, mobile technologies and services in Asia Pacific generated $1.6 trillion of economic value (5.3% of GDP), with countries increasingly benefiting from improvements in productivity and efficiency brought about by the increased take-up of mobile services.
The mobile ecosystem also supported 18 million jobs (directly and indirectly) and made a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with $180 billion raised through general taxation.
“Operators in the region are investing billions in continuing deployment of 5G networks that are enabling an exciting variety of new services for consumers. This is also helping transform industry and manufacturing, and driving economic growth – which is of critical importance at this time,” said Julian Gorman, Head of APAC, GSMA. “Mobile connectivity provides a positive impact on productivity and boosts GDP, and across the region, there is a need for a ‘whole of government’ approach with clear digital strategies to transform economies. As 5G becomes a reality, we call on governments and regulators to actively support a favourable business environment to encourage investment and allow operators to extend next-generation digital services to all Asia’s citizens and speed financial recovery.”
Key Report Findings
- Mobile operators will invest over $400 billion (Capex) on their networks between 2020 and 2025, of which nearly two-thirds ($331 billion) will be spent on 5G deployments;
- Asia Pacific is home to some of the most advanced 5G markets in the world, with nine markets having launched commercial mobile 5G services – including Japan at the end of March – and 12 more have officially announced plans; and
- 4G remains the dominant technology across the region in countries such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Pakistan, where the focus remains in areas such as identity, digital commerce and payments, and cross-ecosystem collaboration to help create the digital societies of the future.
- At the end of 2019, 2.8 billion people in Asia Pacific subscribed to mobile services, accounting for 66% of the population. With nearly 500 million new subscribers added since 2014, the region is one of the fastest-growing in the world and home to over half of total global subscribers; and
- Asia Pacific will account for around half of new subscribers globally by 2025 and by this time, we forecast 266 million new subscribers to be connected across the region, bringing the total to just over 3 billion (70% of the population).
- Over the next six years, 663 million people across Asia Pacific will start using mobile internet for the first time, bringing the total number of mobile internet users in the region to around 2.7 billion by 2025 (61% of the population).
- This growth in connectivity is helping the mobile industry increase its impact across all of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and spurring adoption of mobile-based tools and solutions (e.g. in agriculture, education and healthcare) that aim to improve livelihoods in low- to middle-income countries and close the gender gap.
The Mobile Industry Steps up to the COVID-19 Challenge
The impact of COVID-19 on 5G growth will be greater in Asia Pacific since the region is home to some of the first 5G networks, compared to other areas where many markets have yet to launch 5G. As a result, our revised forecasts show that the total number of 5G connections will be almost 20% lower in 2020 in Asia Pacific than previously expected.
Gorman continued, “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of a robust digital economy to cushion the economic and industrial shock of control measures. Emerging economies need to do more to stimulate and evolve the digital ecosystem, including accelerated smartphone penetration and mobile broadband adoption to prepare the foundations for an inclusive 5G future. Digitisation, which was already an important target, is, therefore, moving up the agenda for businesses and governments alike, with many now accelerating their timelines.”
5G is at a crucial early stage across Asia Pacific. COVID-19 will impact deployments and uptake, affecting both supply- and demand-side economics and the financial implications to the industry are still to be assessed. The outlook, nevertheless, is that the impact of COVID-19 on the mobile industry will be temporary; however, the impact on some individual markets and Mobile Operators may be material.
It is critical governments recognise the significant contribution Mobile Operators have made to help respond to COVID-19 and seek to encourage additional investment and innovation for an even more resilient digital future. Indicators show that 5G will experience a short-term dip rather than a long-term slump. As the world recovers from this crisis, wider connectivity and better networks will become a priority for consumers, enterprises and governments.