Preparing telecom’s infrastructure to close the digital divide in APAC


In the run up to Mobile 360 – Digital Societies, we spoke with Suresh Sidhu, CEO, edotco Group to discuss the current infrastructure landscape across APAC and what needs to be done to advance 4G and 5G in the region.

Can you describe the telecom infrastructure landscape in Asia currently?
Asia’s telecom infrastructure landscape varies depending on the state of connectivity in each country – some countries are at the early stages of data adoption and require more standard connectivity infrastructure for coverage whereas the more advanced countries will be looking to next-generation solutions to meet increasing capacity demands.

For example, we have nations like China and South Korea with an advanced infrastructure landscape, which are equipped with next generation solutions that are ready to meet 5G connectivity requirements. On the other hand, we have developing nations like Pakistan and Bangladesh that need the right shareable infrastructure to provide connectivity in hard-to-reach areas while rolling out improved infrastructure in urban areas to meet evolving 3G and 4G connectivity demands. Apart from that, we also have countries like Malaysia who have begun adopting next-generation telecom infrastructure solutions to prepare for the increase in capacity requirements that come with 5G transition.

How does infrastructure rollouts vary from country-to-country?
Aside from coverage requirements as mentioned above, cost, regulatory standards, geographical aspects and accessibility play a role in determining infrastructure roll out as well.

Diving specifically into regulatory standards, the deployment of infrastructure is affected by a myriad of elements, which can differ right from varying license conditions and framework maturity to the availability of amenities and off grid on grid facilities. Regulation should be primarily focused on encouraging infrastructure sharing and promoting competition for improved service levels, two elements which play an important role in determining the progress, infrastructure roll out and overall telecom infrastructure landscape from country to country.

How will the infrastructure landscape change as the industry transitions towards 5G? What new technologies will we see deployed?
5G requires the densification of telecom infrastructures to realise its full potential. With the expansion of Internet-of-Things (IoT), increased interest around the development of smart cities and adoption of 5G, we will need to start planning for the right solutions that can cope with the increased capacity demands. With Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) needing more access points that are capable of handling high data rates per individual user, we’ll see an increased deployment of infill solutions such as small cells, which connects mobile devices to mobile networks over a small area using low-powered radio access points. Fibre will become a key enabler, as it will allow for the high throughput required. Integrated shared antennas hosted by neutral parties will be a key cost-effective option as well.

How can countries prepare for 5G roll out?
Many countries in Asia have been undergoing 5G trials. This helps the nation identify the issues they need to address before fully adopting 5G. Malaysia for example is now undergoing a ‘5G Testbed and Trials ‘exercise. The working group for this initiative also seeks to bring together interested parties to collaborate, develop, test and deploy proposed 5G use cases.

Ensuring regulatory standards are harmonised and supportive in terms of providing the right incentives for investments in 5G infrastructure and the development of 5G applications and services is also key. With the growing demands, we need to allow infrastructure providers to also provide active’ services such as BTS hotels and shared antennas. As I mentioned, with 5G comes increased capacity demands and countries will have to accelerate implementation of dense urban solutions: i.e. small cells, IBS and so on. Aside from the telecommunications ecosystem, key to realising this is to ensure close collaboration with other key players such as building owners, local councils, city planners, developers, shopping mall owners, regulatory and government agencies.

Last, but not least, is to ensure we do 4G well. A dense 4G national layer with great backhaul helps the right foundation for 5G deployment.

What topics will the International Infrastructure Summit at Mobile 360 – Digital Societies cover? Why is the Mobile 360 – Digital Societies event so important for the industry?
Mobile 360 – Digital Societies examines the components of a successful digital society and analyses what can be done to progress nations towards this goal. Some of the key topics that will be discussed revolves around 5G, connectivity, digital commerce, digital identity and policy making. It is vital to bring together government ministries, regulatory bodies, mobile network operates and various players from the ecosystems on one platform, so we can identify and meet the needs of a successful digital society.

Suresh Sidhu will be delivering a keynote at Mobile 360 – Digital Societies and opening the International Infrastructure Summit – The Right Stuff: Infra for a Digital Future sponsored by edotco.