New data from GSMA Intelligence shows, for the first time, the specific economic impact of 5G using mid-band spectrum. The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is an early leader in 5G development and will use 5G connectivity as a powerful driver of GDP growth throughout the decade. Mid-band 5G’s impact on the APAC economy will reach $285 billion in 2030, helped by early spectrum assignments for 5G networks.
As the region seeks to emerge from the uncertain environment of the pandemic, mobile will continue to have a role to play in creating a brighter future. Productivity gains made in the 2010s, through the development of 4G, helped the world to teach, talk, carry out transactions and do business more efficiently. Today, these benefits are bound tightly into regional economies and a new phase of development can now come from the deep integration of 5G into our lives, societies and businesses.
A GSMA Intelligence report outlines how, with the right regulatory tools, 5G can become a central pillar of APAC economic development strategies. Its benefit to sectors such as manufacturing, services (including healthcare and education), and public administration (including smart cities) can start a new wave of economic growth.
Spectrum capacity for GDP impact
Beyond the potential economic benefits, GSMA Intelligence also analysed the impact if the capacity needs of 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum are not met. The analysis shows that if spectrum is constrained to its current assignments, up to 40 per cent of the economic impact could be lost.
If spectrum is limited to the current levels as demand for services grows, increased network congestion and deployment costs will stifle 5G. Network quality and speed will suffer, limiting 5G adoption and its economic impact. On a global basis, constraining mid-band capacity can reduce the impact of 5G in 2030 from 0.68 per cent of the global GDP to 0.42 per cent.
An average of 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum for mobile operators is required by 2030. This goal leaves a shortfall of 1.15 GHz beyond today’s average assignments in APAC. However, the region as a whole is starting to move closer to the 2 GHz figure, and as the 5G-leading markets in East Asia maximise the existing harmonised bands, mirroring this progress throughout the region is crucial.
The lack of licensed 6 GHz 5G in the region makes meeting mid-band capacity needs a challenge. The 6 GHz range delivers citywide capacity, providing the perfect environment to expand 5G connectivity. Extending the bandwidth of 5G through the harmonisation of 6 GHz spectrum will improve network performance, allowing businesses and economies to grow.
India’s digital revolution
5G has taken a big leap forward in India, thanks to the recent multiband auction allowing operators to begin roll-outs. Services are expected to launch in major cities across the country, with wider expansion by 2023. Setting the right spectrum policy will pave the way for new and innovative use cases across a range of sectors, which is critical for India’s – and the region’s – future.
Mobile operators throughout the country have been assigned mid- and high-band spectrum to roll out their 5G networks. This assignment has ensured sufficient capacity to integrate 5G into the local economy, providing a clear vision that can maximise the socio-economic value of 5G for Indian society.
All three major operators – Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea – have secured core 5G spectrum in the 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands, whilst new entrant the Adani Group has also succeeded in winning 26 GHz spectrum in selected areas of the country. 5G is now poised to play an important role in fulfilling the vision of a “Digital India”, worth nearly $455 billion over the next two decades.
While mid-band spectrum will drive the most economic benefits, the successful mmWave auction also bodes well. mmWave spectrum is essential for the deployment of high capacity, low latency 5G networks. It complements low- and mid-band spectrum implementations in dense urban areas and provides fibre-like connectivity through 5G fixed wireless access technologies.
Manufacturing delivers 5G promise
The manufacturing sector in India, in particular, is expected to benefit from 5G, as the country presents a rich environment of high-tech manufacturing companies that will rapidly integrate new 5G applications into their businesses.
It is well placed to take advantage of the expanding deployment of 5G, and the services and opportunities that will arise from pervasive and ubiquitous connectivity. Predictive maintenance, machine vision and extended reality are a few of the wide range of 5G applications that manufacturing can exploit.
Mid-band spectrum also helps power innovation in sectors such as healthcare, education and public administration (including smart cities). Unleashing mid-bands can start a new wave of economic growth and industrial transformation.
The coming years will decide the extent to which 5G can deliver on its promise. Spectrum is required to provide fast, affordable services. Governments and industries need to work together on this through the World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 as well as national processes to ensure that 5G can power a new phase of economic growth.