Mobile fuelling economic growth in APAC

Mobile communications is more than just a way of communications — it is impacting and driving economies in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region.

According to GSMA’s ‘Mobile Economy: Asia Pacific 2013’ report, the region is at the forefront of mobile innovation, with the number of unique mobile subscribers having outpaced the rest of the world over the last decade, reaching 1.5 billion at the end of 2012.

In 2017, it is expected that APAC will reach 1.9 billion unique mobile subscribers, accounting for almost half of the predicted global total of 3.9 billion.

GSMA mobile ecosystem 2012

Source: GSMA’s Mobile Economy: Asia Pacific 2013’ report

“Mobile is already having a profound impact across all APAC countries, with spectacular growth in service penetration, driven by investment in infrastructure and continued innovation in devices and services,” said Anne Bouverot, Director General of GSMA. “We are now at the dawn of a far greater growth opportunity and we urge regional governments and regulators to support mobile operators in meeting that full potential. Making the right decisions around regulatory frameworks and spectrum availability will encourage the mobile industry to continue investing in expanding and upgrading services across the region.”

The rapid penetration of mobile services and early roll-out of mobile broadband networks is driving profound economic change in APAC. As of the end of 2012, the mobile industry had invested US$80 billion in mobile infrastructure, generated US$1 trillion in GDP for APAC economies and contributed US$100 billion to public funding.

With access to vital spectrum resources and regulatory policy focused on driving further investment, for the period through 2020, the mobile industry could contribute an additional US$2.3 trillion to GDP and a further US$200 billion to public funding.

The mobile ecosystem in APAC is undergoing a rapid transformation with traditional telecoms providers expanding their business models and new players quickly emerging to compete for customers with innovative new services. The report highlights a number of key trends:

  • Strong growth of data as voice traffic slows down across APAC, while data usage has grown at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of nearly 142 per cent from 2010 to 2012. 3G and 4G connections will grow 17 per cent every year over the next five years;
  • Greater affordability of mobile services. The average monthly cost of mobile services across the region is falling by five per cent per year, decreasing from US $28.80 in 2005 to $19.70 in 2012;
  • Entry of non-traditional players, including the emergence of entrepreneurial start-ups in areas such as mobile advertising and online video sites; and
  • Increased socio-economic impact through collaborative platforms and mobile-enabled services such as payments, education and information services.

This transformation is creating countless business opportunities in both developed and developing economies and accelerating the availability of mobile-enabled services.

In developed economies, which already boast high subscriber penetration rates, there is a need for cohesive regulation to encourage the growth of connected services such as Smart Cities and mHealth. For developing countries, there is a continuing need for regulation that encourages long-term investment in network roll-out and upgrades to improve access to basic services.

GSMA is calling for changes that will further enable citizens throughout the region to reap the benefits of mobile. Consistent and fair long-term regulatory frameworks and taxation policies are needed to incentivise, not restrict, investment in mobile and spur regional economic growth and welfare improvement.

The timely availability of spectrum will also be critical in enabling the mobile industry to extend, upgrade and deliver new services. Regional governments should be led by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standards on the bands and amounts of spectrum made available to mobile operators as they seek to upgrade networks to 3G or 4G services.

The drive towards band harmonisation, in line with the Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT) band plan, is a critical part of this process, as up to 30 per cent of the benefits of the switch from analogue to digital TV broadcasts depend on harmonisation of the 700MHz band across the region.

Bouverot added: “Mobile is already a significant engine for growth and welfare improvement throughout the APAC region. Now there is a clear opportunity for mobile to further transform lives, create new businesses and drive additional economic growth. If regulators are focused on creating environments that encourage further investment, from both traditional and new mobile players, then this opportunity is well within the reach of all countries with the region, regardless of their level of economic development.”

To access the report please visit: www.gsma.com/mobileeconomyasia

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