GSMA: 5G to fuel APAC mobile revolution by 2030

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The Asia Pacific (APAC) region is poised to experience a dramatic shift in its mobile landscape as 5G technology rapidly gains momentum, according to the recently published Mobile Economy APAC 2023 report by the GSMA.

The report highlights the exponential growth of 5G adoption in the region, projecting that 5G connections will account for over two-fifths (41%) of mobile connections by 2030, a surge from just 4% in 2022.

Julian Gorman, Head of APAC at the GSMA, said: “As the mobile market spans the world’s largest geographical area, APAC’s connectivity ecosystem is highly nuanced and consists of both pioneering mobile innovators and emerging markets.

“The region has some of the fastest growing 5G markets in the world today, notably India, which is set to add tens of millions of 5G connections in 2023. However, across APAC as a whole, we’re also seeing some of the world’s largest disparities in mobile internet usage.”

Driving forces behind 5G growth

The GSMA report attributes the surge in 5G adoption to several key factors.

One of the primary catalysts is the decline in the average price of 5G devices, making them more accessible to a broader consumer base.

Additionally, numerous countries in the APAC region are witnessing rapid network expansion, further accelerating the adoption of 5G technology.

Leading governments in the region are also actively integrating mobile-enabled technologies into various aspects of society, promoting the adoption of 5G and fostering technological innovation.

Expected growth and benefits

By the decade’s end, the APAC region is projected to boast approximately 1.4 billion 5G connections. The economic impact of this technological transformation is equally remarkable.

In 2022, the mobile sector added $810 billion of economic value to the APAC economy, equivalent to almost 5% of the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This number is expected to reach a staggering $990 billion by 2030, with 5G alone contributing more than $133 billion.

Industries such as services and manufacturing are set to be the primary beneficiaries of 5G technology by 2030—driven by innovative applications in smart cities, smart factories, and the smart grid. These advancements promise increased efficiency and productivity across various sectors, propelling the region’s economic growth.

However, there are also challenges

Despite the promising outlook, the report also highlights certain barriers hindering mobile access and usage in some APAC countries.

While mature markets like Australia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea lead the 5G innovation frontier, nearly half of the population in APAC (47%) still lacks access to mobile internet. Latin America, China, and Eurasia have outpaced the APAC region in this regard.

Various factors contribute to this discrepancy, including limited digital skills – particularly among older populations – the affordability of devices and services, and concerns related to online safety. Addressing these challenges is essential to achieve full mobile inclusion and unlock the region’s vast potential for growth and innovation.

“If we are to fully realise the digital transformation mobile connectivity can bring, we need to establish a flexible, forward-looking regulatory and policy regime to support mobile network deployment and operations. This includes greater efforts to close the digital divide, particularly for women and vulnerable populations,” added Gorman.

New avenues for monetisation

As 5G adoption continues to grow, the report emphasises the importance of finding new avenues for monetisation.

Extended Reality (XR), augmented reality, and virtual reality experiences are expected to leverage 5G’s advanced capabilities and play a crucial role in driving consumer adoption. 

5G fixed wireless access services also hold the potential to create incremental revenue opportunities, particularly in areas with low fixed broadband penetration.

Finally, the report highlights the thriving fintech industry in the APAC region, with India, Vietnam, and Indonesia experiencing rapid growth. The fintech sector’s expansion has not only improved financial inclusion but also led to an increase in mobile money accounts—promoting a more inclusive and accessible financial ecosystem.

Sustainable growth

The report underscores the need for circularity in the mobile industry, given concerns surrounding e-waste generation and resource consumption.

Policymakers and industry players are called upon to incentivise consumers to recycle and extend the lifespan of mobile devices through refurbishment and resale initiatives.

To fully realise the potential of 5G and drive innovation in the region, policymakers are urged to create a conducive environment for mobile operators. This includes fair business conditions, flexible licensing regimes, and policies to bridge the digital divide—especially for vulnerable populations.

The Mobile Economy APAC 2023 report offers a glimpse into the promising future of mobile technology in the Asia Pacific region. With 5G poised to dominate the mobile landscape by 2030, governments, industry players, and communities must work collaboratively to address existing challenges and ensure widespread mobile inclusion.

By fostering innovation, promoting sustainable practices, and enhancing connectivity, the APAC region can embrace the transformative power of mobile technology, driving economic growth and improving the lives of billions of people across the continent.

(Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash)

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