ASEAN 5G Q1 2021 Roundup: More Edge Computing and Private Network Developments

A. Amir

Summary Bullets:

  • Malaysia has joined Indonesia and Vietnam with its commitment to launch 5G this year, while telcos in the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand are moving to the next deployment phase with a wider focus on standalone (SA) architecture, private network services, and industry collaborations.
  • 5G adoption has been revised slightly upward, driven by the increase in the subscriptions and lower overall mobile users.

Key Announcements

February 2021 – Singtel Launches Singapore’s First Commercial Indoor 5G Network: Singtel expanded its 5G coverage to VivoCity Mall, with plans to extend the coverage to other popular malls in the country this year.  While the focus was mainly on enhancing customer experience through faster speeds (up to 1.2 Gbps), the indoor network is expected to drive new 5G applications in the retail industry such as enhanced shopping experience through AR/VR, personalized customer experience, and smart inventory.

February 2021 – AIS Joins NTT DoCoMo and Others to Launch 5GEC: NTT DoCoMo, AIS, and a group of other players announced plans to establish the 5G Global Enterprise solution Consortium (5GEC) to accelerate 5G solutions and private networks.  Trials are planned in Thailand in the second half of this year, while commercial services are expected in 2022, targeting vertical industries such as manufacturing and construction companies.  The collaboration will provide a platform for AIS to drive the private 5G network ecosystem in the country leveraging expertise from other providers.  For more, please see ”AIS Joins NTT DoCoMo and Others to Launch 5GEC, Provide Private 5G Solutions in Thailand and Other Asia-Pacific Markets” (February 4, 2021).

February 2021 – dtac Collaborates with WHA Group to Develop 5G Smart Water Management Solutions: Through the partnership, dtac and WHA Group are developing 5G smart water management solutions using the telco’s mmWave spectrum in Thailand.  The solutions leverage mMTC to connect IoT sensors in an area of over 60 hectares to provide real-time data transfer and large-scale analytics to improve water management efficiency.  The collaboration, which has proven dtac’s capabilities in co-developing vertical 5G solutions, will drive its brand share and market proposition in other industries.

March 2021 – 5G Will Be Available in Malaysia by the End of the Year: The Malaysian government announced that 5G will be launched in the country by the end of the year through a special-purpose vehicle (SPV).  The SPV will be fully responsible for infrastructure rollout and network wholesale to service providers.  While the SPV approach is expected to drive the market competition by providing a level playing field to all providers, it could also slow down industry innovation, especially in co-developing enterprise 5G solutions.  For more, please see “Malaysia 5G Through SPV: One Step Forward and Two Steps Back” (March 8, 2021).

March 2021 – Singtel, SK Telecom, and Bridge Alliance Trial Interconnected MEC Across Singapore and South Korea: Bridge Alliance announced a successful proof of concept (PoC) of interoperable MEC to run cloud gaming across Singtel and SK Telecom’s platforms.  The edge computing is still in the early phase, but the successful demonstration is seen as an important milestone, and it will further accelerate  technology development and unlock more cross-border 5G MEC applications within APAC and with other regions.  For more, please see “The Bridge Alliance’s Federated Edge Hub Has the Potential to Drive the Future of Enterprise 5G” (March 19, 2021).

Market Outlook

In Q1 2021, Malaysia has joined Indonesia and Vietnam with its commitment to launch 5G this year, while telcos in the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand are moving to the next deployment phase with a wider focus on SA architecture, private network services, and industry collaborations.  In terms of adoption, 5G subscribers are expected to grow from 0.8 million in 2020 to 126 million and account for 17% of the total mobile subscribers in 2025, as shown in Figure 1 below.  The overall adoption has been revised slightly upward compared to the previous forecast (please see 5G Updates in ASEAN – Q4 2020: More Countries to Launch 5G This Year, Steady Growth Expected in the Next Five Years,”  January 5, 2021).  This is driven by an increase in the total 5G subscriptions, especially in countries such as the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, where service providers are aggressively expanding their network coverage to drive adoption.  Between segments, the overall adoption will be largely driven by the mass market in the midterm, while enterprise solutions are expected to make a bigger impact on the total market towards the end of the forecast period.  Within the enterprise segment, current activity is around building awareness as well as working with vertical industries and vendors on 5G use cases.  This includes the partnerships between AIS and NTT mentioned earlier in this report as well as the recently announced Singtel and Ericsson partnership to provide 5G trail networks in a box.

Figure 1: 5G Subscriptions in ASEAN: 2019 – 2025

* Countries covered: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand


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