Mobile cellular Radio Access Network (RAN) investment has driven the increase in 5G coverage across the Asia-Pacific region. China and Korea have achieved 98% and 90% 5G coverage respectively.
Meanwhile, India is still underway with its nationwide coverage and intends to reach 98% by 2024. ABI Research says overall mobile operator 5G Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) commitments across the region will rise through 2027. 5G RAN Capex is expected to plateau from 2024 while investments in 5G Core Network investments will continue to rise through 2027. Core Network and Backhaul expenditure is expected to reach US$79.5 billion annually by 2027.
Sarah Yong, 5G markets research analyst at ABI Research noted that these mobile CapEx investments are significant. Operators are seeking to mitigate their infrastructure costs as best they can.
“Active network sharing has been gaining traction in APAC as a number of operators set up joint ventures to roll out coverage or sell off their infrastructure towers to tower management companies,” she continued.
With its 5G deployment and infrastructure developments, China remains ahead of the curve. In addition to its existing co-build, co-share infrastructure plan, the Chinese government has granted its mobile telcos spectrum in the 700 MHz, 2.6 GHz, 3.5 GHz, and 4.8 GHz bands to operate their 5G networks, as opposed to holding a spectrum allocation auction.
This coordinated government initiative has helped to accelerate the rollout of 5G in the country. South Korea and Japan follow closely behind. In their evolution to 6G, these markets are committed to 5G-Advanced and carrying out 6G testbeds.
Despite being the second largest telecommunications market in the world, India lags other countries in APAC with its 5G deployment and infrastructure developments due to delays with spectrum allocation and network infrastructure construction.
Nevertheless, the commercial rollout, which began in October 2022, marks the beginning of a steady and sustained growth in Indian telecoms investment to support the needs of the largest end-user data consumption markets in APAC. Total end-user data consumption stood at 12 Gigabytes (GB) per user per month in 2022.
However, the overall adoption of 5G by end users in India has slowed in recent quarters. The affordability of 5G handsets is slowing adoption in India. In Thailand, on the other hand, the government is aggressively driving the adoption of 5G in its Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) with 5G smart cities, ports, hospitals, and airports being deployed. Despite the initial slow uptake of 5G in the country, Thailand displays the potential to be a significant 5G hub for Southeast Asia.
Jake Saunders, VP and managing director of ABI Research Asia-Pacific, says 5G-Advanced will significantly impact the Asia-Pacific region “5G-Advanced enables a range of policy control and value-added services for the mobile telco – especially in the 5G to Business (5GtoB) sector. We have witnessed several hundred 5GtoB case examples, and the count is rising,” he added.