Unlocking the power of towercos in APAC’s digitalisation
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Unlocking the power of towercos in APAC’s digitalisation

Sanjay Goel_EVP & President, Asia Pacific, ATC.jpg

Sanjay Goel is American Tower's Executive Vice President and President, Asia-Pacific; here he shares his thoughts on towercos' role in supporting digitialisation

The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is on the brink of a profound digital transformation. This shift is primarily driven by the advent of 5G technology, which promises to enhance connectivity, spur social advancement, and stimulate economic growth. With operators racing to upgrade their networks to meet the surging demand for data, the role of towercos becomes ever more critical in facilitating this industry-wide transition.

The introduction of 5G technology marks a significant milestone in mobile communications. Its low latency and high capacity is expected to enable revolutionary technologies such as edge computing and accelerate Industry 4.0, driving efficiency across various enterprise sectors. This transformation will foster innovation across numerous industries, integrating emergent technologies into the very fabric of our economy and daily lives.

Towercos are set to play a foundational role in this digital revolution. By partnering strategically with telecommunications operators, towercos can meet evolving needs and support the widespread adoption of 5G. To manage the anticipated increase in data consumption and unlock the full potential of 5G, Towercos must innovate and expand rapidly, providing new solutions while ensuring the swift expansion and densification of infrastructure.

The IMT-2030 framework, which I closely follow, supports enriched experiences, enhanced connectivity, and new collaborative use cases. It signifies a shift towards hyper-connectivity and deeper integration of IoT, AI, and VR. Efficient spectrum management is crucial, including re-farming existing spectrum, spectrum pooling and sharing, and exploring new bands to ensure global standardization and interoperability. Security and privacy remain paramount, necessitating robust measures to protect user data and network integrity.

In my analysis, the global transition to 5G is progressing at an unprecedented pace, surpassing the adoption rate of 4G. By 2029, data usage per smartphone is projected to rise to 56 GB, with the share of 5G data expected to reach 55%. In APAC, nearly half of the population is now connected to mobile internet, and the region stands to gain significantly from the economic boost provided by 5G. With 297 operators in 117 countries having launched 5G services globally, and over 50 operators in APAC testing or commercially launching 5G services, the region is at the forefront of this technological shift. The mobile sector contributed US$810bn to the APAC economy in 2022, with projections reaching almost US$1trn by 2030. The services and manufacturing industries will be the primary beneficiaries, driven by applications in smart cities, smart factories, and smart grids.

Towercos have the capability to offer integrated solutions that support 5G networks, including small cells, Wi-Fi, edge data centres, and innovative tower designs. This evolution will unlock new growth opportunities for telecom infrastructure providers. The mobile revenue in APAC is expected to grow significantly, with 5G adoption projected to account for nearly 41% of total subscriptions by 2030. Unique mobile subscribers and mobile internet users are anticipated to increase, while smartphone adoption is expected to rise to 94%, driven by affordable devices and improved digital literacy. Cellular IoT connections are also projected to see substantial growth, reaching 284 million.

The convergence of telecom and computer networks presents significant opportunities for towercos. By upgrading infrastructure to support networking equipment and computing resources, offering network connectivity services, deploying edge computing facilities, developing data centres, and providing value-added services, towercos can transform their passive real estate assets into dynamic hubs for telecommunications infrastructure. The neutral host-shared infrastructure model remains, in my view, the optimal choice. It offers efficient use of capital, faster time to market, and operational excellence. This model is inherently sustainable, reducing the environmental impact of the telecom industry.

For towercos, digital transformation is not just necessary but urgent. The rise of 5G and other emerging technologies will drive the need for robust infrastructure. Towercos will evolve into integrated digital infrastructure providers, playing a pivotal role in the region's digital growth. APAC’s digitalisation journey, fueled by 5G, presents immense opportunities for towercos. By embracing innovation and expanding their service offerings, towercos can transform into dynamic hubs for telecommunications infrastructure, unlocking new revenue streams and creating significant value for their clients. The future of telecom towers in APAC is poised for a transformative shift, enabling the next generation of networks and driving regional digital advancement.

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