How AI, IoT, and 5G are powering growth in APAC

09 October 2023

Nassia Skoulikariti, director of IoT programmes, Mobile Ecosystem Forum

In the dynamic landscape of today’s rapidly evolving technological advancements, industries are undergoing profound shifts catalyzed by the convergence of innovative technologies. The telecom sector is at the forefront of this transformation, experiencing a remarkable overhaul driven by the seamless integration of groundbreaking technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), 5G networks, and artificial intelligence (AI). Within this remarkable digital evolution journey, the Asia Pacific (APAC) region is emerging as a vanguard of transformation, unfurling a new telecom paradigm set to reshape industries in unprecedented ways.

The Asia Pacific region, renowned for its technological dynamism, has become the front-runner for the amalgamation of AI, IoT, and 5G into the fabric of telecommunications. This confluence isn’t just about communication; it orchestrates connectivity, intelligence, and speed.

Technology as a catalyst for digital transformation

In contemporary innovation, the trilogy of AI, the IoT, and 5G networks has risen as the quintessential catalysts for profound digital transformations. In a world moved by data-driven decisions and hyper-connected ecosystems, these technologies are not merely tools; they are the architects of change for digital metamorphosis on a global scale.

Their combined influence isn’t just confined to optimizing operational efficiencies or incrementally improving business processes. It extends far beyond, altering the very DNA of industries and enabling them to navigate disruptions with unparalleled resilience.

As the digital narrative unfolds, the strategic integration of 5G and IoT takes centre stage. They create a paradigm shift in how businesses function and serve their customers. The ongoing global deployment of 5G networks sets the stage for a new era of connectivity – one marked by unprecedented speed, ultra-low latency, and the ability to support a massive influx of connected devices. With 5G delivering seamless, high-speed connectivity and IoT orchestrating sensor-based interactions seamlessly, businesses gain invaluable insights into consumer behaviour, market trends, and operational efficiencies.

We are moving towards a world where machines communicate flawlessly, supply chains remain perpetually optimized, and urban environments adapt in real-time to changing demands. This is the reality that the marriage of 5G and IoT ushers in – an era where industries seamlessly coalesce into intricate ecosystems of interconnectivity, blurring the line between physical and digital realms and turning unpredictability into knowledge.

The APAC telco landscape: a front-runner in digital transformation

The APAC region is witnessing a rapid transformation in the telecom sector, driven by the dynamic adoption of AI, IoT, and 5G technologies. As a hub of technological innovation, APAC is leading the global investment in 5G infrastructure.

According to Goldman Sachs, integrating AI and 5G could potentially drive a $7 trillion increase in global GDP, lifting productivity growth by 1.5% over ten years. This massive opportunity is not lost on the telco industry, which eagerly embraces these technologies to stay at the forefront of this digital revolution.

According to the latest GSMA report, by 2030, APAC is set to have 1.4 billion 5G connections, mainly driven by the drop in 5G device cost, the expanding 5G network deployments and the concerted efforts of governments pushing mobile technologies to the very fabric of society. Australia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea lead the way to 5G innovation.

Yet barriers cast shadows over other parts of APAC, with access and usage challenges persisting. Amid significant improvements, the research unveils a striking reality – nearly half the population (47%) in the Asia Pacific still lacks mobile internet access, lagging behind regions like China, Latin America, and Eurasia. Affordability, digital skills, and safety concerns contribute to this divide.

The transformative force of mobile isn’t confined to communication; it shapes economies. The mobile sector contributed a staggering $810 billion to APAC’s economy in 2022 (approximately 5% of GDP) and is forecasted to be near $1 trillion ($990 billion) by the decade’s close. 5G’s contribution is poised to surpass $133 billion, spotlighting its role as an economic catalyst.

The ongoing 5G deployments are paving the way for the proliferation of IoT devices and the emergence of AI applications, thereby fostering a new digital transformation era.

The latest IoT network generation runs on LTE networks and 3G and 2G bands. The potential of 5G connected IoT is substantial, and its adoption is getting closer daily.
The GSMA report has identified IoT as a focus point in APAC, recognizing its potential to deliver a new age of intelligent connectivity.

The global IoT market is projected to reach a value of over $900 billion per year by 2025, experiencing a significant surge from its $348 billion value in 2019. APAC stands as the largest IoT market worldwide in terms of its potential for economic growth and expansion of connections.

Telco digital transformation: key drivers and impacts

The telecom industry in the APAC region is undergoing a seismic shift, driven by an ensemble of paramount forces reshaping its core. This metamorphosis isn’t just a response to the times; several key factors, including customer demand for high-speed internet services, the proliferation of smart devices, and the need for efficient network management, are driving it. The impacts of this transformation are profound, affecting not only the telecom industry but also other sectors.

A chorus of compelling factors sets the stage upon which this digital transformation unfolds. The resonance of customer demand for high-speed internet services is a driving force that can’t be overlooked. In an era where connectivity isn’t a luxury but a necessity, the advent of 5G moves consumers to expect faster download and upload speeds, lower latency, and uninterrupted connectivity. The rise of IoT devices and smart homes has further escalated this demand.

As technology becomes an inextricable part of everyday life, the proliferation of smart devices underscores a shift in paradigms. From wearables monitoring our health to smart home systems seamlessly managing our environments, these devices are more than tools; they are envoys of an interconnected world. The telecom industry, striding hand-in-hand with digital transformation, provides the infrastructure to weave these devices into the tapestry of modern existence.

Beneath the surface of every seamless internet experience lies the intricate art of network management, making the need for efficient network management another significant driver. As data traffic grows, telecom operators need to ensure efficient data management, seamless connectivity, and robust security. AI can play a crucial role in meeting these requirements with its predictive analytics and automation capabilities.

The desire to offer innovative services and enhance customer experiences drives telcos to adopt AI, IoT, and 5G technologies. These technologies allow telecom operators to deliver personalized services, automate customer support, and gain deeper insights into customer behaviour.

Impacts on various industries

The technological impacts are profound, altering not only how we communicate but also how industries operate. The connectivity ecosystem created by the telecom sector isn’t isolated; it’s a bridge that unites diverse sectors under its technological arch, having a ripple effect on various other sectors. From the healthcare and manufacturing sectors to retail and logistics industries, no industry remains untouched by this transformation.

“According to the latest GSMA report, by 2030, APAC is set to have 1.4 billion 5G connections, mainly driven by the drop in 5G device cost, the expanding 5G network deployments and the concerted efforts of governments pushing mobile technologies to the very fabric of society.”


For instance, 5G and IoT technologies enable remote patient monitoring, telemedicine, and AI-driven diagnostics in the healthcare sector. IoT devices are used in manufacturing for predictive maintenance, quality control, and supply chain optimization.

In the retail sector, AI enhances customer experiences through personalized recommendations and chatbots, while IoT enables smart stores and inventory management. In logistics, IoT devices are used for real-time tracking, while AI is used for route optimization and demand forecasting.

The impacts of technology on various industries are indeed far-reaching and transformative. Revolutionizing how businesses operate and deliver value, paving the way for new possibilities as these technologies converge, connect, and empower industries. As a result, businesses are reaching unprecedented heights of efficiency, innovation, and customer experience.


The telecom industry in APAC is on the cusp of a metamorphosis powered by the rapid evolution of AI, IoT, and 5G technologies. The next five years will usher a transformative era with increased possibilities. As these technologies mature and intertwine, they hold the key to significant changes in how telecom operators’ function and deliver services.

Telecom operators are poised to transcend traditional roles, becoming envoys of a new, interconnected world. The spotlight shines on ubiquitous connectivity, where smart cities, efficient industries, and seamless customer experiences weave a fabric of convenience for all.

IoT is at the core of this interconnectivity, paving the way for unheard-of opportunities. Smart devices flood the market, giving rise to a new era where machines are sentient, data flows freely, and everything is interconnected. As operators leverage IoT to interconnect devices, they’ll orchestrate a world where networks facilitate conversations and sensors weave stories. The future will undoubtedly be interesting, driven by the transformative power of interconnected and intuitive technologies.