Turning Density into Opportunity: 5G in Asia

Density. When you mention the word density in relationship to 5G, it almost always refers to the network. But when mentioned in the context of Asia, the word “density” takes on a whole new meaning.

The GSMA predicts that Asia will lead in the development of mobile 5G, attributing the region’s expected success to supportive (even bullish) governments; early movement on spectrum allocation; notable investments from the private sector, and ambitious launch targets linked to major international sporting events coming up in South Korea, Japan, and China. Intel is actively working with ecosystem partners in Asia to accelerate 5G commercial availability.

As we near deployment, there’s no question that the sheer human density of Asian countries will factor into the demand for (and adoption of) next generation wireless services and solutions—in essence, shaping the future of 5G. At the same time, 5G will shape the future of Asia, solving challenges related to meeting the needs of growing populations centered in urban cores.

If we look at 5G adoption in Asia through the lens of solving density challenges in some of the world’s largest markets, it’s easy to see the impact it could have in:

  • Reducing CO2 emissions with autonomous vehicles

China produces 29% of the world’s energy-related carbon dioxide, a key reason behind the Beijing Government’s move to accelerate the adoption of no-emission and autonomous vehicles. They’ve set a goal of that self-driving cars will comprise 10% of all vehicle sales by 2030, significantly reducing the number of vehicles on the road, by definition improving air quality. 5G connectivity will be a key element in reaching that goal—offering a safer, more productive, and more enjoyable driving experience, as well as V2X capabilities to improve traffic flow and efficiency. Combine electric operation with autonomous ride-share vehicles, and the environmental benefits could be enormous. Picture having fewer cars on the road, making mobility accessible to more people, while also gathering valuable data on traffic conditions and the surrounding environment that can be used for public benefit. 5G has the potential to make all of that a reality.

  • Improving citizens’ quality of life with smart cities

Smart city initiatives are also gaining momentum in Asia, backed by governments that recognize the potential. South Korea claims to have achieved the world’s first smart city with Songdo, an international business district which is being used as a test bed for new technologies. China has more than 285 smart city projects in motion, and India’s government has set a goal of building 100 smart cities by 2020. Cities consume two-thirds of the world’s energy and a majority of other resources. Enabling smart cities in crowded Asian markets with low-latency 5G network connectivity for billions of things (IoT) can deliver both environmental (energy efficiency, air quality, clean water), and social benefits (emergency response drones, structural safety). Asia is engaging in standards based trials, building and testing and partnering to bring 5G technology and the benefits it will provide to improve the quality of life of millions of people.

  • Upgrading service delivery for the world’s largest mobile markets

With 1.3 billion current subscribers, China is the world’s largest mobile market. Adoption of 4G LTE continues to grow rapidly in China, as well as in South Korea and Japan (the region’s technology leaders). While 4G can deliver many of the same capabilities as 5G, it has some basic limitations when it comes to bandwidth. Operationalizing mmWave spectrum for cellular use will help densely-populated Asian markets address the shortage of bandwidth. The addition of mmWave, supported with an augmented number of antennas and small cells enabled with beamforming technology, will not only create more capacity for more users, but it will also deliver data speeds in the 10s of Gbps for AR/VR, autonomous vehicles, and more. 5G will also improve operators’ ability to implement network slicing based on user, device, or use case—right-sizing the delivery of services for improved speed, performance, and efficiency.

The launch of 5G in Asia will not only solve unique challenges, it is expected to create economic opportunities the likes of which have never been seen—driving unprecedented market collaboration; creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs, and generating new monetization models for services and solutions. As a recent Telecomasia analysis put it, “5G is not just an enabler and economic multiplier, it’s a nation builder.”

Asian governments and operators recognize the 5G opportunity and are moving quickly to make investments in network infrastructure to enable early first deployments. We expect to see pilot 5G deployments using 28 GHz spectrum this year in South Korea, in preparation for the upcoming major international sporting event with all three operators executing commercial launches by 2020. Japan, the host of some of the most pioneering 5G trials to date, will likely launch commercial 5G network services in Tokyo in time for the next major international sporting event. Commercial trials will be taking place in China next year, with deployment planned for 2020, and a target of showcasing technological progress at the major international event in 2022.

Intel is currently engaged in active 5G interoperability development testing trials with operators and system partners throughout the Asia region. In China, we are collaborating with Ericsson in a trial utilizing our 2nd Generation Mobile Trial Platform, which supports critical early 5G New Radio functionality, including multi-carrier operation; addressing and interaction with multiple devices, and scheduling via multiple transmission points. This trial will form the basis for field tests with China Mobile (CMCC) and the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT). These trials are the first step in launching what’s expected to be the world’s largest 5G network in China by 2020.

At Intel, we’re excited to be working with our ecosystem partners in Asia to solve unique regional challenges, while gathering key learnings that will drive the future of 5G forward, enabling a fully-connected and interactive world.