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The Mobile Economy Asia Pacific 2019

5G is now a reality in Asia. Following a commercial launch in South Korea earlier this year, five more countries across Asia Pacific will have launched 5G networks by the end of 2019. Some countries, particularly the more developed markets seeking to be global leaders in 5G (South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Australia), will see relatively rapid 5G growth: across developed Asia Pacific, 5G will account for half of total mobile connections by 2025. To aid in its development, many operators across these markets are investing heavily in AI and edge technologies, both of which are increasingly seen as critical components of future networks.

Across the rest of the region however, the 5G opportunity is more long term, largely because there is still a lot of headroom for 4G. It is unclear whether people in many of the region’s emerging markets will potentially pay more for a 5G service, particularly when 4G will meet their needs in the majority of cases. We therefore expect 5G to account for 15% of connections in developing Asia Pacific (and China will account for most of this). The focus for these markets is to push advancements in areas such as digital commerce and payments, identity and cross-ecosystem collaboration to help create the digital societies of the future.

Aside from all the buzz around 5G, mobile continues to drive socioeconomic development across the region. At the end of 2018, 2.8 billion people (two-thirds of the population) in Asia Pacific subscribed to mobile service, a number that will grow to 3.1 billion by 2025. This growth in connectivity is helping the mobile industry increase its impact across all the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and is also making a significant contribution to the economy. In 2018, mobile technologies and services in Asia Pacific generated $1.6 trillion of economic value (5.3% of GDP) – a contribution that will surpass $1.9 trillion by 2023 as countries increasingly benefit from the improvements in productivity and efficiency brought about by the increased take-up of mobile services. Further ahead, 5G technologies are expected to contribute almost $900 billion to the region’s economy over the next 15 years, with sectors such as manufacturing, utilities and professional services standing to benefit the most.

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