In today's fast-paced world of technology, Asia is becoming a dominant force in the telecommunications industry. With its thriving economies, growing middle class and strong desire for connectivity, the region is experiencing notable success in the development of its telecommunications infrastructure. From state-of-the-art 5G networks to expansive undersea cables, Asia is leading the way in shaping the future of communication, commerce and connectivity.
Indeed, Asia has experienced a remarkable digital transformation in the 21st century. Countries like China and South Korea have played a leading role in this technological revolution, propelling the region past traditional development stages to fully and collectively embrace the digital era. One of the key drivers of this transformation has been the implementation of 5G networks.
China is leading the telecommunications revolution in Asia. With its huge population and influential tech companies like Huawei and ZTE, the nation is playing a major role in shaping the telecom industry. Through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China is funding important telecom infrastructure projects across Asia and other regions, improving connectivity between countries.
In addition, South Korea has established some of the fastest and most extensive 5G networks globally. These networks enable instantaneous data transfer, the integration of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and the provision of innovative services that were once considered only possible in science fiction.
The Korean government launched the “New Deal” in July 2020 to address the economic recovery of the country by 2025. This initiative recognizes the importance of digital transformation and sustainability as the main pillars of the “National Strategy for a Great Transformation.” Connectivity is also seen as a crucial factor in this plan.
The digital aspect of the New Deal aims to create a smart country that utilizes data, network and artificial intelligence (DNA) infrastructure. It proposes projects to incorporate 5G and AI into all sectors of the economy and promote the digital transformation of industries. Korea already has a strong foundation in terms of connectivity, being a longstanding leader in the OECD.
In December 2020, Korea was the top country in the OECD when it came to the percentage of fiber in fixed broadband connections. It had attained 84.8% implementation, compared to the OECD average of 30.6%. The nation was also one of the first OECD countries to launch 5G commercial networks in April 2019 and has achieved one of the highest coverage rates in the OECD since then. As of May 2021, there were 15.84 million 5G subscriptions in Korea, which accounted for 22% of all mobile subscriptions.
The telecommunications industry throughout all of Asia is rapidly changing due to the increasing use of mobile devices and digital services. Data usage is growing rapidly, with mobile data traffic projected to increase at an average annual growth rate of 32% from 2022 to 2028. This is markedly higher than the projected growth rate of 20%-25% in Western Europe from 2022 to 2030, according to reports by Ericsson and Arthur D. Little (ADL).
The deployment of 5G networks is happening quickly; it is expected that 52% of the population in Asia will have access to 5G by 2030, compared to only 2% in 2021. Telecommunications companies in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have already made significant investments in their 5G networks as well, and there will be a surge in the need for additional towers to ensure coverage in the coming years.
Perhaps most tellingly, people in Asia are highly connected and reliant on mobile devices, with a mobile penetration rate of 136% in the region. Additionally, the digital economy is projected to grow from US$194 billion to US$330 billion between 2022 and 2025, driven by increased e-commerce, food and transportation services, and online media platforms such as social media, streaming and gaming.
To meet the demands of consumers, businesses and governments (including cloud ERP and cloud CRM services), the region will require more telecommunication towers and a significant increase in local and regional data centers.
Asia's dominance in the telecommunications industry has far-reaching implications for the entire world. To fully harness the potential of this telecommunications revolution, it is crucial that the region strike the right balance between connectivity, security and sustainability.