Catching up on the feats and achievements of your favorite Asian athletes at the Rio Olympics?, Thanks to the power of over-the-top (OTT) content streaming, sports fans in Asia Pacific are able to catch the live sporting action at all hours of the day — very often beamed directly to their smartphones, while they are traveling for work.

Welcome to the new arena of competition for service providers, where the sheer ubiquity of connected devices is fast shaping the way data services are being delivered to mobile subscribers.

Putting Asia’s mobile economy into perspective

The findings from our most recent Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast affirm that mobile networking is critical to meeting the consumer demands of tomorrow. In Asia Pacific, mobile video traffic will grow 12-fold between 2015 and 2020, a robust compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 64%, as compared To the overall IP traffic growth of 26% CAGR.

Our mobile data and video traffic forecast is in line with the latest GSMA Mobile Economy 2016 report. According to the report, the mobile subscriber base in Asia Pacific — the world’s largest region in terms of subscribers — reached 2.5 billion at the end of 2015. Driven by the shift to faster networks and more advanced services, mobile subscription will grow at an annual average rate of more than 10%, on pace to add another 600 million new subscribers between now and 2020.

The pace of growth is even more pronounced in the region’s emerging economies, such as India, where mobile data traffic grew by a staggering 89% in 2015. In fact, GSMA predicts that India alone will add nearly 250 million new mobile subscribers by 2020.

While Asia’s mobile revolution spells new opportunities, the challenge for operators is to find new ways to monetize the increasing data traffic and unlock higher ARPU in price-sensitive markets, while having to cater for the next wave of mobile broadband deployments. Let’s take a closer look at the key developments that service providers need to consider to craft a winning mobile strategy for growth.


Keeping up with mobile user expectations

With mobile device usage on the rise and expected to drive the majority of IP traffic, operators in Asia can set themselves apart by delivering superior levels of mobile network performance.

A key consideration is that mobile subscribers today value access to data significantly more than voice services. This means they expect to have immediate access to high-bandwidth services such as high-definition (HD) content via their smartphones, and operators are challenged to manage the impact of this demand. From “cord-cutting” households that consume increasing amounts of data to the need for bandwidth to accommodate internet gaming and even virtual reality applications, service providers can rise to the occasion by delivering mobile services in a reliable manner.

Going deeper into this trend, video content will continue having the greatest impact on mobile network demands. According to the Cisco VNI projections, mobile video traffic will increase 12-fold over the next five years to account for 75% of Asia Pacific’s overall mobile data traffic in 2020.

With greater video quality, come greater media delivery and network demands. As consumers continue to drive up demand for advanced video services such as video-on-demand (VOD) and Ultra HD (UHD) content via mobile, network speed, convenience and price become key factors for service provider success and profitability.

Operators need to consider how to deliver video content more efficiently, and they are increasingly turning to content delivery networks (CDN) as a means of delivering a whole new experience for mobile subscribers.

Globally, CDNs will carry 62% of total Internet traffic by 2020. By distributing local content caching and multiscreen platforms toward the edge of their network, operators can reduce the bandwidth requirements for delivering growing volumes of IP video content, while providing customers the enhanced viewing experiences they desire. Operators can also monetize this mode of content distribution by offering scalable, “wholesale” CDN services to their content provider partners.

March towards 5G continues apace

Broadband speed improvements are key enablers for service providers to accommodate mobile consumption of video content and applications, and to reduce customer churn.

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At the same time, high speed networks are also integral to supporting the next wave of software-defined data centers, allowing IT organizations to deliver cloud-like services to both internal users and end customers. Here is where network virtualization and cloud-based technology models can give service providers the added flexibility to deliver mobile-optimized experiences to both consumers and business users in a cost-effective manner.

Looking ahead, the transition to higher speed 4G and next-generation 5G networks is pivotal to enabling better network performance, enhancing user experiences while lowering the network TCO.

In Asia Pacific, 4G connections will represent up to 74.7% of total mobile data traffic by 2020 (compared to 52.4% in 2015). As the rollout and adoption of 4G networks accelerate, service providers need to look to how 5G-ready virtualized mobile networks will address future demand for greater capacity and network scalability and lower cost..

The road to 5G is paved with new opportunities and challenges: A winning strategy for service providers would be start collaborating with technology partners to conduct 5G field trials, and examine how your network architecture can be sufficiently upgraded to drive service innovation and reduce churn through greater subscriber satisfaction.

Let the “games” begin. Catch up with the latest insights and more expert perspectives on how the mobile economy is ready for takeoff by downloading your copy of the VNI APJ EBook.


Dirk Wolter

Head of Mobile Networks

Asia Pacific Region