Crunch time for the future of mobile broadband in APAC

Brett Tarnutzer/GSMA
25 Nov 2015

Demand for mobile services has grown exponentially in Asia Pacific, fundamentally changing the region’s social and economic landscape. According to the latest GSMA research, there will be an estimated 2.4 billion unique mobile subscribers in the region by 2020, up from 1.8 billion at the end of 2014. The mobile industry is already a key source of public funding, contributing $130 billion in 2014 alone, and by 2020, mobile is expected to generate 5.9% of the region’s GDP and directly support eight million jobs across the region.

Underpinning the growth of mobile in the Asia Pacific region is high consumer demand for mobile broadband. By the end of 2014, around a third of the population across the region was using mobile devices to access the internet, equivalent to around 1.3 billion individuals, a figure that has almost tripled in the last five years. Furthermore, Cisco forecasts that global mobile data traffic will increase almost tenfold from 2014 to 2019.

This surge in mobile data demand is driven not only by rising smartphone adoption, but also by homegrown mobile innovation. Mobile networks play a key role in connecting previously unconnected populations across Asia Pacific, particularly in developing countries where there is a lack of fixed-line broadband access. Mobile internet access in Asia Pacific will increase further by 2020, extending to half of the region’s population.

However bright the future looks, greater demand for the mobile internet will mean greater demand for internationally harmonized spectrum. Securing additional mobile spectrum in Asia Pacific is vital to meeting consumers’ ever-increasing appetite for mobile data services. Without sufficient spectrum, networks face a capacity crunch that threatens access to affordable, ubiquitous, high-speed mobile broadband services.

Urgent action is critical. At the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) treaty negotiations currently underway in Geneva, governments from the Asia Pacific region will decide whether to identify the spectrum required for mobile to meet anticipated demand from consumers and businesses. Because it can take up to ten years from identification of spectrum at the international level to service launch at a national level, decisions made by each nation at the WRC-15 will effectively determine the future of the mobile internet in the region for the next decade.

We urge governments in Asia Pacific to vote now to identify additional spectrum today for potential use by mobile broadband in the years ahead. The negotiations that will conclude this week create a unique opportunity to foster the next generation of mobile networks, ensuring the future prosperity of the region and enhancing the lives of all its citizens.

Data sources: The Mobile Economy Asia Pacific 2015 and Cisco Visual Networking Index Global Traffic Forecast Update, 2014-2019.

Brett Tarnutzer is head of spectrum for the GSMA

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