By JS Pan
Special to The Nation
As developed countries like the US, China and South Korea lead the charge to a widespread roll out of 5G, countries in Southeast Asia are also working hard to take advantage of 5G’s benefits in the development of its respective countries. Business as well have tremendous opportunity to improve its technology capabilities for internal business processes and product or software offering.
A sharp increase in internet users and smartphone owners in Southeast Asian countries has helped to support improvements in tech infrastructures in these countries – as internet and social media penetration and mobile connectivity percentages from 2018 illustrate. Research suggests that this trend will only continue over the next few years. All countries are moving toward commercial rollouts of 5G networks in the next few years. The latest Ericsson Mobility report forecasts that the first commercial 5G services will become available in the region by mid-year, with 5G subscriptions accounting for 12 per cent of the total connections base by 2024.
5G technology is expected to simplify network infrastructure and lower deployment costs, which is ideal for ultra-reliable, low latency communications. The technology is also anticipated to be able to support billions of connected devices with diversified requirements, expanding the flexibility and agility beyond purpose-built LTE Networks. The network will provide the infrastructure for artificial intelligence (AI), particularly real-time analytics through edge processing, and also facilitate rapid access to cloud resources for the telecom network.
5G is not only building on an evolutionary growth in bandwidth, but also better use of and access to spectrum within low-, mid- and high-frequency bands, and improved connection reliability. 5G New Radio (NR) supports a variety of frequency bands with far greater bandwidth. For example, low-band spectrum (below ~1GHz) provides coverage across a large area that is excellent for broad LTE coverage in regional and rural environments as well as in-building. Mid-band spectrum (between ~2 – 5 GHz) delivers mobile broadband such as TDD 3.5 GHz. From 5G trials, deployments and launches worldwide, the 3.5 GHz band (3300 – 3800 MHz) has been the most frequently used and is emerging as a core 5G band.
The first wave of 5G service deployments are using various frequencies for improved data flow, leveraging existing 4G deployments for smoother migration. In Southeast Asia, Vietnam made trial licences available for 5G in the range of 2575–2615 MHz, 3700–3800 MHz and 26.5–27.5 GHz. Thailand, on the other hand, passed regulation recalling unused spectrum in the 1500 MHz, 2300 MHz and 2600 MHz bands, to reallocate for 5G services via auction. Regulators in Thailand also announced that by the end of 2019, it will terminate 2G services to open up spectrum for 5G services. As the global community continues to make decisions on which type of spectrum will be used for 5G services, we have engaged in collaborations with device makers and radio frequency (RF) leaders to stimulate 5G smartphone innovation and define a front-end module solution (including a radio frequency front-end design) that accommodates 5G components without impacting smartphone designs.
5G can be a catalyst for a connected society and economic transformation in SEA. The development of the region’s population and economy will be heavily reliant on its communications infrastructure to contribute to the digitalisation of verticals including fixed wireless broadband, education, smart cities and city management, agriculture, healthcare, transport and industrial IoT. For example, a big market opportunity for 5G is in replacing home broadband. Home broadband would be replaced with a plug-in device that delivers Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) anywhere in the home converting a 5G connection into home Wi-Fi so that all your devices (e.g. laptops, tablets, smart TVs and appliances, doorbell, security cameras, and games consoles have the benefits of multi-gigabit bandwidth.
Contributed by JS Pan, General Manager, Wireless Communication System and Partnership, MediaTek.