Now that 5G is here, the much anticipated infrastructure will enable a smarter and more connected world promised to drive digital economies for governments, to create new monetization opportunities for businesses and offer a real perceivable difference over 4G for consumers.
According to a recent Frost & Sullivan survey conducted at the 5th Annual Asia Pacific Spectrum Management Conference held in Kuala Lumpur in March 2019, 79% of respondents said that they will rate their mobile operator according to the indoor network quality that they experience. An overwhelming 93% of Malaysian respondents agreed that Digital Indoor Systems (DIS) availability was important. These statistics represent the changing needs on the demand side across the region that needs to be addressed.
With 80% of network traffic now originating from indoors, it is not hard to see that indoor use cases will become a key driver of 5G network. As the number of 5G launches increase in number, mobile data usage will increase exponentially alongside new applications such as Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 8K live video streaming and location-based services (LBS). All of which will primarily take place indoors.
“This means that the improving customer experience indoors to monetize 5G will become a priority and of utmost importance. This coupled with users increasingly becoming critical of their mobile operators when it comes to the indoor environment require that mobile operators focus on indoors for the next wave of growth,” said Mei Lee Quah, Associate Director, ICT, Frost & Sullivan Asia-Pacific.
5G has the potential to transform industry verticals through 5G indoor connectivity but certain key verticals will experience stronger growth than others. A key success factor for DIS would be to focus on key verticals where there will be stronger growth and a clearer value proposition for indoor 5G while solving pain points for users. Retail, media and entertainment, tourism and hospitality, and industrial manufacturing are some examples of the more promising key verticals.
- Within retail, shopping malls around the world are transforming into shopping experience centers. They are now providing value add network based services such as AR/VR game services and heat maps to drive retail spend.
- Within media and entertainment, 5G stadiums seek to offer unique, thrilling experiences for audiences using AR to draw the crowds in. News spreads quickly of the use of an AR fire-breathing wyvern on opening day 2019 at Munhak Baseball Stadium in South Korea.
- Within tourism and hospitality, smart hotel concepts are paving the way for the industry to soar to greater heights in customer experience. The InterContinental Shenzhen in China recently initiated the industry’s first end-to-end 5G network that will offer guests an innovative, luxury experience.
- Within industrial manufacturing, increasing cost pressure is driving the need for high network availability to support use of augmented remote service assistance and real-time and historical data for predictive analysis to improve operational efficiency and productivity.
Given the advantages of DIS over the conventional Distributed Antenna System (DAS), mobile operators worldwide have already begun the transition from DAS to DIS.To date, the most notable progress has been in China with its achievement of about 80% penetration for new indoor system deployments.
“The nation as a whole has achieved consensus on what is needed to progress in terms of indoor network coverage and regulators have developed performance test criteria for 5G indoor scenarios,” said Quah. “This soon to be ubiquitous indoor experience will facilitate the many applications soon to entice China’s millennials that have high spending power. Wechat’s 1 million mini programs are only an indicator of what might be facilitated within China’s new indoor environment.”
Regionally, a common theme across the case studies of mobile operators implementing DIS show that mobile operators are looking for cost effective, future-proof solutions (e.g. 5G-ready) that can be deployed quickly. For example, HKT in Hong Kong implemented DIS to reduce CAPEX while sharing the 5G-ready solution and providing high quality mobile data service to subscribers. Turkcell in Turkey leveraged on DIS for the shorter construction time and 5G-readiness and Sichuan Mobile in China deployed DIS in office buildings, shopping malls and hospitals to refresh and improve existing indoor application coverage.
Quah concludes, “Conventional economics dictate that the supply side needs to be optimized to address changes on the demand side. There is no doubt that indoor use cases will become a key driver of 5G network and correspondingly users will make increasing demands on their mobile operator when it comes to the indoor environment. Focus needs to shift to transforming indoors for DIS to enable 5G and on specific key verticals for the next wave of growth to happen. 5G is here, it is time for transformation of the indoors environment, especially in Malaysia.”