5G: ultra-fast connectivity for the fasting-growing economy

By Malcolm Chan

Over the past two decades, Asia has emerged as the world’s fastest-growing economic region. China, for instance, has transformed from a country where low cost goods were manufactured by low cost labour, to a trailblazer of the high-tech and communications. South Korea, meanwhile, has invested heavily in R&D, increased exports and now has a highly skilled labour force and a strong digital economy.

The region has also been making the headlines (and attracting foreign investment) due to its leading position first in 4G connectivity and now in 5G; the next generation of mobile connectivity. 5G – and 5G roaming in particular – will help to position the region as a major player in the global internet of things (IoT). Business leaders of technology or telecoms company aren’t the only ones who stand to reap the benefits of developments in 4G and 5G. The success and growth of organisations in a huge number of vertical markets is also being enabled and driven by innovations in connectivity and communications technology. 

What’s the state of 5G in APAC?

Mobile 5G will deliver faster upload and download speeds and lower latency, and networks will be able to support many more connected devices than today. These won’t just be smartphones, but millions of machines, sensors, wearables etc. People and things will be able to send and receive more data, better, faster, and more reliably and consistently.

China, South Korea, and Japan are arguably leading the way in 5G. South Korea launched a commercial network earlier this year, and it was reported last week that China’s mobile carriers will begin offering 5G mobile services to the public on November 1st. According to mobile industry body the GSMA, Asia’s mobile operators are set to invest $370 billion in developing new 5G networks over the next five years, and it’s anticipated that 24 APAC markets will have launched 5G by 2025. 

However, APAC is made up of a great many countries, most of which are focused on rolling out 5G services domestically. This means that while enterprises and consumers will be able to take advantage of services at home, when traveling abroad, they’ll be faced with a comparatively slower service. Mobile operators therefore need to start thinking about the importance of enabling 5G overseas.


Is 5G roaming available in APAC?

How many business trips do you take every year? And how important is high-quality, reliable mobile connectivity? Probably ‘a lot’; and ‘very’. South Korea is again leading the way in terms of 5G roaming, with national operator SK Telecom pioneering the world’s first 5G roaming service earlier this year, with Swiss operator Swisscom.

This may have been the first such roaming service, but it’ll be complemented by many more in the coming years, as enterprises demand for high-quality, global mobile services continues to grow. The Olympics in Japan next year, for example, will offer the perfect stage for launching 5G roaming.

The close geographical proximity of APAC regions is a prime opportunity for collaboration between comms players, to develop better services for business and leisure travellers alike. However, as mentioned, 5G (and 5G roaming) isn't only about improving connectivity for mobile subscribers; it’ll also deliver significant benefits to businesses taking advantage of APAC’s growing IoT.

How will 5G roaming support the IoT?  

The mobile IoT refers to the connected ecosystem which allows data to be transmitted and stored via sensors, devices and ‘things’ which are connected to a cellular network. Due to the volume of connected things expected to make up the IoT in the future, upgrading networks to 5G will be essential. APAC is already a major player in the IoT market, accounting for 48% of global spending on the technology, and momentum is continuing to grow; last year, roaming traffic in Asia surged by 245%, with IoT devices paying a major role in this growth. 

Supporting connectivity for 5G enabled devices domestically is of course important, but rolling out next generation roaming services will enable IoT businesses to be seamlessly global. Connected vehicles, for instance, will be able to drive across borders and remain connected, ensuring elements like safety systems, entertainment systems and tracking continue to work at optimal levels. 

5G roaming will help to open up markets, encourage collaboration and deliver a better quality of service for end-users – all major plus points for APAC’s business community. APAC’s telecommunications sector will also benefit, as operators will be able to develop and up-sell new consumer and business subscriber services.

It’s not only mobile operators which should keep an eye on 5G news and views from the APAC region. Global mobile connectivity is an area that affects the global business community, and with collaboration and cooperation between telecoms, businesses and vertical sectors, it’s an area in which APAC can continue to lead.

By Malcolm Chan, Managing Director Asia-Pacific, BICS 



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