The Asia-Pacific region is poised for growth as operators increase investment in ICT

PARTNER FEATURE: Governments and businesses around the world are realizing the importance of a robust communications infrastructure to drive economic growth, with many operators in the Asia-Pacific region turning to Huawei for expertise to transform their networks to support the booming digital economy.

A recent report from EI Studios, GSMA Intelligence and Huawei highlighted the strong links between ICT investment and the growth of the digital economy. Targeted investment has been found to impact a number of key indicators: employment, productivity and even social factors such as mortality and income levels.

With a new wave of digitization powered by AI, cybersecurity services, IoT and cloud computing, the report notes that telecom operators are playing an increasingly important role as drivers of the digital economy. Capitalizing on a new wave of growth and business opportunities first requires network transformation, he argues.

Most governments in the Asia-Pacific region understand this, as evidenced by rising ICT infrastructure spending.

Although the region is extremely diverse, operators in many countries have moved to deploy private 5G networks for enterprises with the release of spectrum after first rolling out 5G service to consumers in major cities.

The impact on their corporate business is significant. B2B revenue accounts for about 30 percent of total sales and is growing by as much as 5 percentage points annually, GSMA Intelligence data shows.

In a media roundtable at MWC Barcelona 2023, Abel Deng, president of Huawei Carrier Business Group – Asia Pacific, said following the opening of borders and the gradual economic recovery, “we are pleased to see that the revenue forecasts of most APAC operators are positive, which instilled great confidence in the development of the industry.”

However, he pointed out that global macroeconomic uncertainty has brought various challenges to Asia-Pacific operators. “Removing obstacles to revenue growth, harnessing the dividend of the digital economy and improving operational efficiency have become the overall strategic thrust for the transformation of regional operators.”

Basic drivers

Abel Deng described three trends to support operators’ transformation and transition to preparing for 5.5G and beyond.

First, the Asia-Pacific region is still at a stage of rapid development, with the penetration of telecommunications services being very uneven. The region is home to some of the early adopters of 5G technology and some of the highest 5G penetration rates in the world. LTE penetration ranged from 40% to 100%, and average monthly data usage increased from 5GB to 40GB.

“Users’ communication needs are far from optimal,” he noted.

Second, IoT has become an inevitable trend in many countries.

“With 5G spectrum, low latency and massive IoT connections, it is possible to connect everything, enabling everything from smart cities and unmanned stores to smart homes and smart bracelets. While it enriches people’s lives and opens up a smart world, it also brings new growth opportunities for operators,” explained Abel Deng.

Third, most countries in the region are fully engaged in digital transformation, with “huge potential for growth,” he said.

The digital economy in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole makes up less than 20 percent of the entire economy, compared to 60 percent in advanced countries and 40 percent in China.

In China, with major mobile operators collectively investing about CNY 400 billion in their national 5G networks, the country’s digital economy is projected to exceed CNY 60 trillion ($8.7 trillion) by 2025.

From 2016 to 2021, China’s digital infrastructure doubled in size.

Abel Deng emphasized: “The demands of the digital economy on ICT infrastructure are becoming new growth drivers for regional operators.”

Support for business success

Although many companies in the region are embracing digital transformation, it requires a mature ICT infrastructure, which can be a technical and investment challenge for many.

Huawei is working with operators across the region to support their transformation initiatives.

Abel Deng said the company focuses on helping operators improve network, operational and energy efficiency. It addresses the former by supporting the move to next-generation technologies that can improve user experience and expand network boundaries.

The second is addressed by moving from traditional networks to autonomous networks to achieve high-quality 5G development and intelligent operations and maintenance (O&M).

To push the sustainable agenda, he said operators must focus on end-to-end energy efficiency and use ICT technologies to enable industries to reduce energy consumption and emissions.

APAC success stories

Last year, Huawei collaborated with operators in Thailand to implement new use cases, including a 5G smart hospital, a 5G smart city in Pattaya, and a 5G smart green mine.

Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok is transforming the healthcare industry with the launch of Thailand’s first 5G smart hospital, which will be home to a digital health center. The faculty was equipped with cutting-edge multiple access technology to optimize the 5G network across the campus, allowing staff to use remote and AI-assisted diagnostic equipment.

In the seaside resort city of Pattaya, Huawei is working with operators to deploy smart poles, environmental sensors and cameras to improve urban governance. The initiative is expected to reduce congestion by more than 30 percent and sharply reduce pollution days, in a move to attract more tourists.

In the mining industry, a smart 5G green mine project will be launched to provide autonomous remote control trucks. Self-driving vehicles combined with an intelligent dispatch system can reduce energy consumption by 30 percent. The setup can also reduce wait times and improve overall transportation efficiency by 8 percent. Abel Deng noted that 5G remote control mining trucks can greatly improve the working environment of drivers and eliminate many risks.

He concluded by noting that operators in the region are experiencing a period of rapid 5G development as LTE traffic continues to grow. “Huawei’s offering helps operators build high-performance networks, coordinate 4G and 5G development, and optimal TCO to deliver the 5G trial experience.”

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