There is a lot to digest in terms of 5G developments in the Asia-Pacific region. Find out where five countries in the region currently stand in terms of 5G deployments, spectrum, infrastructure, partnerships, and business telco strategies. The countries analyzed include Australia, China, India, Japan, and Singapore. The 5G assessments for South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam are left out of this post, but can be found in the related research report.
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From a telecommunication perspective, ABI Research discusses the deployment of 5G throughout the Asia-Pacific region, in particular spectrum allocation and infrastructure developments of 5G in five various countries in Asia. These include 5G deployments in Australia, China, India, Japan, and Singapore. To start things off, the following list provides some background information on these five countries’ 5G efforts and related market data.
- Australia: The first commercial deployment of 5G in Australia was in 2019 with Non-Standalone (NSA) architecture, though network deployment expanded to Standalone (SA) in 2021. In combination, there are more than 4.5 million 5G subscribers and approximately 7,000 5G base stations as of 4Q 2022. Australia’s mining and agriculture sectors are the country’s strongest revenue streams that may benefit the most from 5G deployments.
- China: As a juggernaut in 5G technologies, China has built more than 2.2 million 5G base stations since its deployment in 2019 and has 475 million 5G users as of July 2022. This indicates 26 base stations per 10,000 people in the country, up from 5 base stations per 10,000 people in 2020.
- India: India is the second-largest telecommunications market in the world, with more than 1.16 billion subscribers and revenue amounting to US$36.1 billion (INR2.98 trillion) as of fiscal year 2021. Across the country of 1.4 billion people, there are more than 660,000 base station sites as recorded from 2021. Furthermore, 6% of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was accounted for by the telecommunications industry. The increase in mobile phone penetration and decline in data costs drives the roaring uptake of the existing 4G network in the country.
- Japan: With more than 87,000 5G base stations in the country, Japan has approximately 45 million 5G subscribers as of 4Q 2022. The total number of mobile subscriptions in the country amounts to 200.3 million. Currently, 5G is supplied by Communication Service Providers (CSPs) NTT DOCOMO, SoftBank, and KDDI, all of which initially used 5G with NSA architecture. However, from 2021, there has been both SA and NSA 5G architecture in Japan. The country’s key industries that seek to benefit from the rollout of 5G include manufacturing and transport & logistics.
- Singapore: Singapore is quickly adopting 5G technology with deployments of more than 1,300 5G base stations and an estimated 680,000 5G subscribers since May 2022. Starting in 2020, the country’s major telecommunications operators—Singtel, StarHub, and M1 Limited—were assigned spectrum in 3.5 GHz and Millimeter Wave (mmWave) 26 Gigahertz (GHz)/28 GHz bands for 5G deployments. 5G network coverage currently stands at 95% in 2022. Total subscriptions stand at 9.5 million as of 1Q 2022. Singapore launched its 5G NSA network in September 2020 using the 2.1 GHz and 3.5 GHz spectrum. Today, there are dual-mode 5G capabilities using NSA and SA architecture across the southeast Asian country.
“Countries that are steadily progressing with the commercial deployment of 5G services should look to China, South Korea, Japan, or Australia to complete the rollout of 5G.” – Sarah Yong, Analyst at ABI Research
Key Decision Items
Australia’s 5G infrastructure developments prove to be one of the most advanced in the Asia-Pacific region. For the immediate future, CSPs are looking to sell their infrastructure towers at wholesale prices to enterprises for private networks to expand their range of IoT offerings. This strategy is unique to the telecommunications markets in the Asia-Pacific region.
The sharing of 5G infrastructure contributed to the accelerated distribution of 5G network services across the country and the progress toward assimilating 5G into enterprises. This includes Australia’s developments in its 5G Core (5GC) network and edge computing. However, considering Australia’s strong mining and agriculture sectors, perhaps network slicing trials enabled by SA 5GC are where Australia’s 5G potential stands.
As a global leader in 5G technology, China’s regulatory approach to 5G and its infrastructure developments are unique in that the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) controls the allocation of spectrum licenses to CSPs and encourages CSPs to co-build and share their base station sites. This operational strategy serves China well, as it sped up the penetration of 5G in the most populated country in Asia. It also left the competition to CSPs to differentiate themselves from their competitors, as opposed to competing for the most spectrum.
Furthermore, Chinese telco equipment vendors like Huawei and ZTE contribute to the ease of the 5G rollout, enabling a high base station density, possibly the greatest in Asia. This signifies the country’s dedication to being a top player in 5G. As China begins to settle down with its 5G infrastructure rollout, 5G Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) should plateau, also in light of the fact that the country has begun its 6G Research and Development (R&D).
India just began its commercial 5G rollout in October 2022 and both consumers and enterprises have much to look forward to. Despite this, the infrastructure deployment in India is still underway, though it is expected to pick up with the increased deployment of base stations and the sharing of sites and infrastructure by Indian CSPs.
As the second-largest telecommunications market in Asia, the future of India’s 5G progress lies in Bharti Airtel and Vodafone’s efforts to deploy and develop SA 5G and 5GC in 2023 to remain competitive against Reliance Jio. Further, as India has one of the world’s largest smartphone data consumption rates at 12 Gigabytes (GB) per user per month, mmWave has huge potential for consumers and enterprises. Nevertheless, considering the presence of Nokia, Samsung, and Ericsson in the country, in addition to the country’s large telecommunications market, 5G deployment will likely pick up very rapidly.
With close to full nationwide coverage of 5G in the country, Japan is considered one of the more advanced 5G markets in the Asia-Pacific region with innovations in Open Radio Access Network (RAN) and the world’s first cloud-based mobile network in the world. Regardless, the base station density in the country is still relatively low considering the country’s progressive uses of 5G.
Meanwhile, all four Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in Japan (NTT DOCOMO, KDDI, SoftBank, and Rakuten Mobile) have deployed 5G mmWave commercially for users—a new deployment for Asian markets. The uptick in mmWave-compatible devices from Samsung, Sony, Fujitsu, and Google enabled this, with mmWave hotspots in Harajuku and Shinjuku. Comparably, Japan’s manufacturing and transport & logistics industries have benefited largely from the accelerated adoption of 5G. For the future, the country may look toward R&D for 5G-Advanced in anticipation of 6G.
Although Singapore’s 5G developments have progressed with nationwide coverage close to 95%, the country is still working toward increasing 5G deployments for users and enterprises. Thus, increasing the infrastructure developments, such as refarming spectrum and orchestrating more base station sites that are shared by CSPs, may improve the penetration rate of 5G.
It may be worth noting that Singapore currently has no low-band deployment of 5G in the country and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has plans to auction these Radio Frequencies (RFs) upon the commencement of the 700 Megahertz (MHz) spectrum rights. Nevertheless, deploying the 700 MHz band may allow Singapore to unlock wider network coverage across the country.
Key Market Players to Watch
Dig Deeper for the Full Picture
This Research Highlight provides a good basis for understanding some of the most significant 5G developments in Asia-Pacific on a country-by-country basis. But you still need to go more in-depth in terms of regulatory outlooks, 5G spectrum allocations, and the potential for RAN, core networks, and backhaul in the Asia-Pacific region. For a more elaborate overview of the 5G status in the Asia-Pacific region—including 3 unmentioned countries—download ABI Research’s Asia-Pacific 5G Deployments: Spectrum, Infrastructure, and Outlook research report.
Not ready for the report yet? Check out our 5G Private Networks in Asia-Pacific: A US$13.5 Billion Opportunity Spurred by Digitalization Research Highlight. This content is part of the company’s 5G Markets Research Service.