Asia-Pacific is on course to become the world's largest 5G region by 2025, according to the latest iteration of the Mobile Economy Report authored by the London-based GSM Association. The aggressive transition to mobile broadband networks and contemporary handsets observed in the APAC region in recent times paved the way for its deployment of the fifth generation of wireless communications to be conducted in a swift manner, GSMA believes. South Korea, Japan, Australia, and China are already counted among 5G pioneers, with all four countries already being set to begin commercial 5G buildouts no later than 2019.
Wireless upgrade investments in Asia will be close to hitting $200 billion over the next several years, the association said, adding that those commitments won't just go toward improving 4G LTE networks and preparing them for 5G connectivity but will also support the creation of new, 5G-only infrastructure. The former investment category is still likely to be more prevalent for the foreseeable future given how the first implementable and entirely standalone 5G standard was only defined this spring, whereas the premier non-standalone specification has been around since December, so both wireless carriers and original equipment manufacturers already had some time to experiment with real-world use cases as their 5G deployment preparations continue.
The first wave of 5G buildouts will be based on that non-standalone Release 15 standard finalized by the 3GPP late last year, with APAC being set to take advantage of it on a significant scale in the coming years so as to fully leverage its 4G LTE infrastructure, gradually transitioning consumers and business to the next generation of mobile connectivity. Seven years from now, 14-percent of all of Asia's mobile connections will be of the 5G variety, whereas 62-percent of them will be made over 4G technologies, as per the same report. Verizon and AT&T are spearheading 5G buildouts in the U.S., with both already confirming plans to launch limited experimental networks in the second half of the year before kicking off broader deployment in 2019.