PARTNER FEATURE: Governments and enterprises across the world are realising the importance of a robust communications infrastructure to drive economic growth, with many operators in Asia Pacific turning to Huawei for expertise to transform their networks to support the booming digital economy.

A recent report from EI Studios, GSMA Intelligence and Huawei highlighted the strong links between ICT investment and growth of the digital economy. Targeted investments were found to impact a number of key indicators: employment, productivity, and even social factors such as mortality rates and income levels.

With a new wave of digitisation, supported by AI, cybersecurity services, IoT and cloud computing, the report noted telecoms operators play an increasingly pivotal role as enablers of the digital economy. Capitalising on a new wave of growth and business opportunities first requires a network transformation, it argued.

Most governments across APAC understand this, as evidenced by rising ICT infrastructure spending.

While the region is extremely diverse, operators in many countries have moved to deploy private 5G networks for enterprises as spectrum is released, after first launching 5G service for consumers in major cities.

The impact on their enterprise business has been substantial. B2B revenue accounted for around 30 per cent of total sales and is rising at as high as 5 percentage points a year, data from GSMA Intelligence showed.

In a media roundtable in MWC Barcelona 2023, Abel Deng, President, Huawei Carrier Business Group – Asia Pacific Region, said after the opening of borders and a gradual economic recovery, “we are pleased to see revenue forecasts of most APAC operators are positive, which has injected great confidence into the development of the industry.”

However, he pointed out global macroeconomic uncertainties have brought different challenges to Asia-Pacific operators. “Breaking the bottleneck of revenue growth, grasping the digital economy dividend and improving operational efficiency have become the common strategic transformation push of regional operators.”

Main drivers

Abel Deng detailed three trends supporting the operators’ transformation and move to prepare for 5.5G and beyond.

First, the Asia-Pacific region is still at a stage of rapid development, with uptake of telecoms services very uneven. The region is home to some of the first adopters of 5G technology and some of the highest 5G penetration rates in the world. LTE penetration ranges from 40 per cent to 100 per cent, and the average monthly data usage has increased from 5GB to 40GB.

“The communication needs of consumers are far from reaching the optimal level,” he noted.

Second, IoT has become an inevitable trend in many countries.

“With 5G spectrum, low latency and massive IoT connections, it is possible to connect everything, enabling everything from smart cities and unmanned convenience stores to smart homes and smart bracelets. While enriching people’s lives and opening up a smart world, it also brings new growth opportunities for operators,” Abel Deng explained.

Third, most countries in the region are fully engaged in digital transformation, with “huge potential for growth”, he stated.

The digital economy in Asia Pacific generally makes up less than 20 per cent of the overall economy, compared with 60 per cent in advanced countries and 40 per cent in China.

In China, with the major mobile operators collectively investing some CNY400 billion in their nationwide 5G networks, the country’s digital economy is forecast to exceed CNY60 trillion ($8.7 trillion) by 2025.

From 2016 to 2021, China’s digital infrastructure doubled in size.

Abel Deng highlighted: “The demands of the digital economy on ICT infrastructure are becoming new growth engines for regional operators.”

Support for business success

While many company in the region are embracing digital transformation, it requires a mature ICT infrastructure, which can be a technical and investment challenge for many.

Huawei is working with operators across the region to support their transformation initiatives.

Abel Deng said the company is focused on supporting operators improve network, operational and energy efficiency. It is tackling the first by supporting the move to next-generation technologies, which can enhance the user experience and extend network boundaries.

The second is addressed by shifting from traditional networks to autonomous networks to achieve high-quality 5G development and intelligent operations and maintenance (O&M).

To push the sustainable agenda, he said operators need to focus on end-to-end energy efficiency and use ICT technologies to enable industries to cut energy usage and reduce emissions.

APAC success cases

Last year, Huawei cooperated with operators in Thailand to implement new use cases, including a 5G smart hospital, 5G smart city in Pattaya and 5G smart green mine.

Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok is transforming the health industry with the launch of Thailand’s first 5G smart hospital, which will be home to a digital health hub. The faculty was equipped with multi-access edge technology to optimise the 5G network across the entire campus, enabling staff to use remote and AI-assisted diagnostic equipment.

In the beach resort city of Pattaya, Huawei worked with operators to deploy smart poles, environmental sensors and cameras to improve urban governance. The  initiative is expected to reduce congestion by more than 30 per cent and reduce pollution days sharply, in a move to attract more tourists.

In the mining industry, a smart 5G green mine project is going to launched to provide remote-controlled autonomous trucks. The self-driven vehicles coupled with an intelligent dispatching system can reduce energy consumption by 30 per cent. The set-up can also cut waiting times and improve the overall transportation efficiency by 8 per cent. Abel Deng noted 5G remote-controlled mining trucks can greatly improve the working environment of drivers and eliminate many risks.

He closed by noting operators in the region are experiencing a period of rapid 5G development, while LTE traffic continues to increase. “Huawei’s offering helps operators build high-performance networks, coordinate the development of 4G and 5G, and optimal TCO to ensure the test 5G experience.”