Why 5G’s commercial potential remains untapped in Southeast Asia

As some Asia-Pacific nations roll out 5G networks, the question of what to do with them for business benefit has not been well-defined, modelled, or trialled beyond a few pilot projects. Here’s what needs to change.

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Though there has been a lot of hype around 5G technology and how it will drastically change our world, its real business use cases and commercial and industrial applications have been underwhelming.

This is true despite the commonly held belief that the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has accelerated commercial adoption of digital services as consumers have become more home-bound and technology-dependent.

Rosy 5G forecasts, but little real ROI and few actual use cases

The forecast for 5G has been quite rosy all along. According to an AT Kearney report in 2019, 5G represents great potential for operators in Southeast Asia. “5G could add 6 to 9% to consumer revenues and 18% to 22% to enterprise revenues by 2025,” the report says. “Indonesia is expected to capture the biggest share, followed closely by Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. To deliver this value, operators will likely pour about US$10 billion into the region’s 5G infrastructure by 2025”.

Whilst Indonesia and Malaysia have fallen behind the curve and countries like Thailand, Singapore and Philippines have zoomed ahead in 5G initiatives, a recent report by analyst firm Frost & Sullivan puts the expected growth of revenue potential for 5G enterprises in Asia-Pacific at 46.4% annually from 2019 to 2024, to reach US$13.9 billion by 2024.

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