GSMA: Slow global 5G roll-out amid COVID-19 impact

by BERNAMA / pic by BLOOMBERG

THE COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the fifth-generation network (5G) technology roll-out although mobile operators are expected to invest US$1.1 trillion (US$1=RM4.14) worldwide in the next five years, said mobile trade group GSM Association (GSMA).

Its director-general, Mats Granryd, said 80 per cent of the US$1.1 trillion investment will be allocated to 5G network enablers or companies that provide network infrastructure and related services.

“Launching a 5G network requires serious investment and research and development activities,” he said at the online 2020 Global Mobile Broadband Forum today, organised by information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider Huawei.

The organisation has also revised its forecast, projecting that the total number of 5G connections will be almost 20 per cent lower in 2020 in the Asia-Pacific nations than previously expected.

A GSMA Mobile Economy Asia Pacific 2020 report revealed that there are 106 5G network roll-outs globally, of which 35 are fixed wireless network roll-outs, and the number was motivated by the need to operate from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 is expected to have an impact on deployments and uptake, affecting both supply and demand-side economics, with the impact of the pandemic on 5G growth will be greater in Asia-Pacific compared with other regions where many markets have yet to launch 5G, the report added.

It noted that Malaysia would see relatively rapid 5G growth as the country seeks to be a global leader in 5G technology.

Granryd said more than 200 5G devices have been introduced, with mobile operators and industry leaders saying that 5G technology will facilitate faster innovation and meet new traffic demands.

He added that the mobile global subscriber base will grow by 20 per cent in the next five years with few advanced countries at the forefront, including the United States with 50 per cent adoption rate, as well as Japan and South Korea, with both having more than 50 per cent adoption rate.

“China will have the single largest 5G base, although penetration is at 30 per cent, due to China’s large and disbursed population,” he said, adding that GSMA is expecting a reduction in overall mobile take-up rate in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic impact.

Granryd said discretionary income pressures, supply chain restrictions and retail store closures are factors that will pressure the mobile industry.

“In order to partly overcome the issue, future spectrum, as well as spectrum policy, must be prioritised with regulators imposing a reasonable spectrum price to mobile operators,” he said.

GSMA is an industry association representing the interests of mobile operators worldwide, with membership from 750 operators with over 350 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem.