July 11, 2019

More Than Four in Five Mobile Connections in Asia Will Be Smartphones by 2025, Says GSMA Report

Having worked in the region over the past several years, I can attest to a report's assertion that "[m]obile internet uptake is spreading rapidly across Asia Pacific, and smartphone ubiquity has resulted in consumers continuing to transition from connectivity to digital services." Authored by GSMA Intelligence, the research arm of the GSMA, The Mobile Economy Asia Pacific 2019 further says the size and diversity of the region, however, "mean countries are at different stages of digital development. Consequently, the policy frameworks for a digital society vary across the region as national governments address their own unique challenges."

The report adds: "For some Asian markets, 2019 will see 5G become a reality as mobile operators move from development and testing to commercial deployment. For many countries in the region, however, 5G deployment is several years away so 4G will remain pivotal to the development of a digital society. Meanwhile, other critical components, such as payments and identity, are evolving rapidly, and governments will need to ensure they continue to develop policies that are modernized and relevant."

The report reveals that:
  • Mobile operators are forecast to invest $574 billion (capex) on new networks between 2018 and 2025, almost two-thirds of which ($370 billion) will be spent on new 5G networks. China alone is forecast to invest $184 billion on 5G by 2025;
  • 4G became the most dominant mobile technology in Asia in 2018 (52 percent of connections), forecast to rise to 4.8 billion by 2025, and will grow to account for more than two-thirds of regional connections by 2025. Around 18 percent of connections will be running on 5G networks by this point;
  • More than four in five mobile connections in Asia will be smartphones by 2025, up from 61 percent in 2018;
  • There were 2.8 billion unique mobile subscribers in Asia at the end of 2018, equivalent to 67 percent of the region's population. The number of subscribers is forecast to increase to 3.1 billion by 2025 (72 percent of the population), though the growth rate is slowing as many key markets approach saturation;
  • Almost all new subscribers to be added in the region between 2018 to 2025 will come from six countries: India, China, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines;
  • In 2018, mobile technologies and services in Asia Pacific generated $1.6 trillion of economic value, equivalent to 5.3% of regional GDP. This contribution is forecast to surpass $1.9 trillion by 2023; and
  • Asia Pacific's mobile ecosystem directly and indirectly employs more than 18 million people, and last year contributed $165 billion in public sector funding via general taxation (excluding regulatory and spectrum fees).
Infographic: GSMA Intelligence

As the use of smartphones become more ubiquitous in Asia Pacific coupled with the gradual deployment of 5G networks in the near future, we will see a rise of business opportunities across a multitude of sectors including artificial intelligence and machine learning, cloud computing, connected devices (IoT), digital health, e-commerce, and fintech, just to name a few.

What services or products do you see will make the greatest impact in the region's mobile economy?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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