On to the next gen: How 5G will affect the APAC business

Words by

Since South Korea rolled out the first commercial 5G network in April, fellow Asian countries have been following suit in its adoption of the technology. Vietnam granted its first trial 5G license to Viettel, with the country’s largest telco set to conduct 5G service trials in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. Singapore confirmed that commercial 5G services will be available by 2020, with their three major telcos currently conducting trials as well.

According to a report by the GSM Association (GSMA), a trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide, mobile operators in the Asia-Pacific will invest around $506B in total capex from 2019 to 2034 — accounting for nearly half of the estimated total global investment of $1.3T.  

While this is undoubtedly a sizeable amount to part with, it does offer huge returns. Within the same time frame, 5G is expected to contribute $890B into the Asia-Pacific economy. The largest chunk will come from the manufacturing and utilities industry with 49%, followed by professional and financial services at 19% and ICT and trade at 13%. Public services and agriculture and mining also have their shares of the pie, contributing 10% and 8% respectively. 

Here in the Philippines, 5G has had its fair share of progress. In November 2018, Clark Freeport Zone was launched as the country’s first smart city through a partnership between PLDT, Smart, and Ericsson, with 13 sites operational as of that time. One of the most recent breakthroughs is Globe’s fixed service At Home Air Fiber 5G, with the telco continuing to expand its commercial availability to more areas.

With its low latency, faster speeds, and higher capacity, APAC nations are already anticipating the impact that 5G will have to their economies, but it will require a great amount of investment to enjoy these benefits. Aside from the vast network of infrastructure needed, there’s also the further research needed to improve current applications and develop new ones. 

Beyond the numbers

5G’s most immediate application will be in enhancing mobile broadband connections. That means faster and higher capacity connections. But 5G also unlocks entirely new use cases beyond streaming 4K YouTube videos during your morning commute to work.

Networks built on 5G promise to be reliable enough to form the backbone of complex, city-wide systems requiring uninterrupted and robust data transfers. 5G will also allow for massive networks of IoT-connected devices, operating cheaper and consuming less power than ever before.

According to GSMA’s 2018 report on 5G’s socio-economic benefits, the technology can help improve production processes and ensure better product quality. Troubleshooting via augmented reality (AR) can help reduce costs and production downtime. Machine vision technology can analyze items while still along the assembly line, pinpointing workers to the direction of substandard products.  

More traditional industries will also benefit from 5G. China Telecom’s mobile application, “The Shepherd Boy”, collects data from smart collars fitted on livestock to help shepherds monitor their movement and mating cycles. And smart mining now allows workers to operate machines from within a room, giving them the tools to do their work efficiently without the hazards that mining environments pose.

Outside the world of work, 5G can also improve the overall quality of life. Autonomous cars will be able to communicate with other cars and even traffic signals, allowing them to make wiser maneuvers on the road and adjust speeds according to the green lights.Through telemedicine, citizens living in remote places can avail of healthcare rendered by a specialist residing miles away from their area. And education through AR and virtual reality (VR) not only provides a more hands-on learning experience but may also increase information retention among students. 

With only a fifth of the world’s countries expected to launch 5G services by 2020, it may take quite some time (and capital) for more economies and more people to enjoy the benefits of the technology. But considering how positive its impact may be, the investment may well be worth every penny.