5G Updates in ASEAN – Q4 2020: More Countries to Launch 5G This Year, Steady Growth Expected in the Next Five Years

A. Amir

Summary Bullets:

• Indonesia and Vietnam have joined the 5G bandwagon in ASEAN with commercial deployments expected later this year.

• The forecast remains stable with 5G subscribers expected to grow from 600,000 in 2020 to 125 million and account for 16% of the total mobile subscribers in 2025.

Key Announcements

October 2020 – Singtel Launches 5G Standalone (SA) Trial Network For Enterprises: Following the launch of its 5G non-standalone (NSA) trial network to the mass market in September, Singtel offers 5G SA network on 3.5GHz frequency band for enterprises to develop and trial 5G solutions. The telco also partners with Ericsson on dual-mode 5G core network solutions and mmWave to enable new enterprise applications and empower the country’s smart-nation initiatives. These initiatives are crucial for Singtel to gain a first-mover advantage as competitors (e.g., Starhub and M1) are expected to launch their 5G SA networks soon.

October 2020 – Dtac Collaborates with PTT for 5G mmWave Use Cases in Thailand: The telco partnered with PTT, the national energy conglomerate, to launch 5G enabled smart video surveillance to ensure physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also co-developing other applications such as smart parking, as part of the country’s smart-city initiatives. The technology enables multiple ultra-HD cameras in use and a reliable network through network slicing. This initiative drives the 5G ecosystem in the country and closes the competitive gap with AIS.

December 2020 – Indonesian Government Awards 2.3GHz Spectrum to Telcos for 5G Use: The ministry awarded 10MHz each of 2.3GHz spectrum to Smartfren, Telkomsel and Tri and plans to launch the technology this year. Indosat Ooredoo withdrew from the auction while XL Axiata did not meet the bidding condition. While this could give Smartfren, Telkomsel, and Tri a competitive advantage, it may impact the overall adoption of the technology as the second and the third biggest mobile operators (Indosat Ooredoo and XL Axiata) with a total subscriber share of 34% in 2020, are missing from the list. Further, the spectrum is limited to only 10MHz for both downlink and uplink for each telco and the frequency band is not the common one used globally. This would limit the 5G high-bandwidth benefit as well as the availability of devices.

December 2020 – Viettel Launches the First 5G Network in Vietnam: Viettel launched its 5G NSA commercial trial network in selected cities, offering unlimited 5G data for free to its customers. The telco also announced its collaboration with Viet Duc Hospital to leverage the technology in remote medical examination, treatment, and surgery in the country.

Market Outlook

Q4 2020 saw another two countries, Indonesia and Vietnam, joining the 5G bandwagon in the region as both countries are set to have the technology available in their respective countries in 2021, while leading telcos such as in Singapore are expected to launch 5G SA networks soon. There has also been more focus on the enterprise 5G applications, for example, the dtac-PTT partnerships and Singtel’s recent initiatives with Ericsson. In terms of adoption, 5G subscribers are expected to grow from 600,000 in 2020 to 125 million and account for 16% of the total mobile subscribers in 2025, as shown in Figure 1 below. Despite positive 5G developments in the region, the adoption is predicted to be similar to the last quarter’s forecast (for more on the Q3 update, please see 5G Updates in ASEAN – Q3 2020: Mixed Developments, but Still a Solid Growth Forecast, October 14, 2020). This is due to the slow adoption expected in Indonesia as well as the 5G delay in Malaysia. The overall adoption will also be limited by 5G coverage as most telcos focus on selected areas in the early phase of their deployments. 5G FWA will be a key driver for ASEAN telcos to drive broadband adoption as fiber coverage is still limited in most ASEAN countries. Vertical 5G applications will be a niche opportunity in the next few years as the ecosystem is still limited and most initiatives will be on exploring and developing new solutions.

Figure 1: 5G Subscriptions in ASEAN: 2019 – 2025* Countries covered: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand

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