While COVID-19 initially slowed mobile phone sales in the Asia Pacific and disrupted supply chains and demand for certain 5G-related end verticals, it also caused an increase in broadband traffic, and 5G use cases such as South Korea using 5G to live-stream its 2020 elections and China deploying 5G-powered smart city robots.
"5G is here to stay in APAC, with operators in the region showing their commitment through increased Capital Expenditure (CapEx) for 5G rollouts," says Kanguri Ling, Research Analyst at ABI Research.
"For example, China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom are investing a total of US$ 173.3 billion on their 5G network by 2025.
"5G will bring many use cases into play for APAC, which is extremely beneficial to the economy and technological progression.
"In the prosumer space, 5G can enable real-time control for remote production of live broadcasts. For enterprises and end verticals, 5G will enable smart cities through 5G-based autonomous form factors and 5G-powered autonomous driving just to name a few.
"5G will also propel an increasingly wireless factory and create new value-based business models for operators in APAC, reducing their profit-reliance on Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)."
Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, operators such as NTT Docomo did not have a delay in commercially launching 5G in March, and KT has seen an increase in ARPU with 5G subscribers reaching over 2 million in 2Q-2020.
Telstra has also upgraded to a 5G Stand Alone (SA) core in May with Ericsson. ABI Research expects that by 2024, APAC will see 5G power 43% of the online video market and 51% of the mobile phone cloud gaming market.
"We will definitely see new trends emerging for the 5G landscape in APAC because of COVID-19," says Jake Saunders, vice president at ABI Research.
"In the short term, we can expect to see consumer demand for 5G-enabled devices to slow down, as global demand and supply chains are disrupted and shrink.
"However, this will produce a counter effect in which 5G productions are diversified to protect against such supply-side shocks. We can also expect to see the acceleration in a 5G-led digital lifestyle, as development for 5G use cases such as remote healthcare, autonomous form factors, and wireless factories becomes much more salient in light of protecting enterprises against future disruptions."