Rolling out 5G for digital transformation in some economies in Southeast Asia is a good way toward hyper-connectivity  – but the situation on the ground is much more complex

Home to some of the most advanced digital governments and least-connected economies, Southeast Asia’s digital diversity and three-speed nature has created a challenging environment for service providers. While service providers have raced to connect 96% of Southeast Asia’s total population, more than a third remain unconnected to a mobile internet service. [i] This usage gap coupled with rapid development of and demand for digital services in the last two years have exacerbated the race for connectivity, use cases and ultimately consumer subscription.

And the industry is capitalizing on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with major big mergers over the past year that will allow companies to enjoy greater economies of scale in 5G deployment while addressing demands to. In 2021, Malaysian telcos Axiata and Telenor announced a $15 billion merger to become Celcom towards the effort of paring price wars and boosting scale for 5G network investments[1]. Thailand’s Dtac and True are also merging to form a $8.6 billion company, with Ooredoo and CK Hutchsinson similarly planning a merger valued at $6 billion[2].

Rolling 5G out into countries towards digital transformation is the obvious end goal – but what this means on the ground is much more complex and intricate. In order to yield the digital transformation of networks and achieve optimized workflows, zero-touch operations must be deployed. This entails fully automated networks that are able to facilitate scalability and operability, raising overall efficiency and reducing time to service and cost of operations.

Juniper Networks has witnessed firsthand the impact of our customers’ efforts towards making 5G deployment more efficient. In anticipation of rapidly growing demand for 5G connectivity and cloud services, their dedicated efforts to scale up their services across Thailand, Malaysia, and Brunei have seen immense success, bringing the region that much closer to a more connected society.

On-the-ground challenges – a region in constant flux

For a region like Southeast Asia, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Beyond the intention and demand to drive connectivity, each service provider faces challenges in 5G implementation that are at once common and unique to their country. In a competitive market, anticipating these challenges are what gives service providers that edge towards continued success.

Overcoming geographical challenges

Take Unified National Networks (UNN) for example – an entity created specifically to accelerate Brunei Darussalam’s progress to a more connected future. Brunei’s government is hard at work to fuel economic growth and enrich the quality of life for its 450,000 residents through digital transformation.

Achieving this was no small feat given geographical challenges with rural deployment. Topography plays a decisive role in the successful upgrade of extending networks to rural areas, overcoming weather elements as well as geographical elements such as hills and valleys. Over the course of this massive undertaking, the service provider refreshed the network from core to edge, shut down the country’s old 2G network, upgraded hundreds of mobile base stations, and is preparing to launch 5G services in 2022 based on market demand.

A modern, reliable, high-capacity network is a necessity for projects like these. With aggressive modernization under way, partnering with Juniper Networks makes the implementation process more intentional and efficient – taking care of considerations like how to meet growing data volumes and make the migration without disruption.

Automating legacy systems

In Indonesia, high-speed Internet is expected to fuel economy by contributing as much as $150 billion to its GDP by 2025. To enable this future, speed, simplification, and scale are required – something that legacy systems cannot easily achieve. XL Axiata, with a long history of building high-performance networks in the country, is upgrading its Juniper network to 400G with the goal of providing high-speed internet to support and improve the performance of its enterprise offerings.

What does automation look like for these enterprises? It means enterprise customers can more easily store data and increase team productivity in a secure and integrated manner, with the added benefit of dedicated connections to highly secure branches and data centers. In short, this translates to more protection of customer data at higher speeds.

Automating their legacy systems has brought XL Axiata a step closer to meeting the latest digital needs of their consumers and businesses. This investment in high-speed networks, including expanding 4G and rolling out 5G, is a strategic pillar in Indonesia’s digital economy and post-pandemic recovery plans.

Scaling up capabilities with smaller, local IT teams

Digital adoption has been just as healthy in Thailand, with businesses prioritizing innovation and shifting to the cloud to engage with customers and sustain a productive workforce. As Thailand’s economy builds out a strong IT infrastructure to accelerate economic growth and prosperity, Nipa Cloud is well positioned to help its business customers scale up their digital capabilities in line with the government’s Thailand 4.0 economic development initiative.

Nipa Cloud competes with global cloud providers who may have more scale and greater resources at their disposal. In the face of rapidly growing volumes of data traffic, how then can they stay competitive with smaller IT teams without compromising the quality of their service offerings? 

Delivering services with high throughput, scalability, performance, and security comes from Nipa Cloud’s flexible IP fabric. Having a Juniper network gives them the flexibility and performance they need to remain a strong contender even at the global level, enabling them to build an enterprise public cloud with 99.99% reliability. Of course, they always have their position as a local business partner to give them that added edge – even with small IT teams, businesses both large and small can take advantage of Nipa’s cloud services, including data analytics and edge computing.

The future-ready strategy

By now, digitalization is a common goal across the Southeast Asian region. Achieving these transformation goals take plenty of planning and calculated risk taking. From our own experience, success is achieved by those willing to put in the extra mile and dive deep into solutions driven by artificial intelligence, go through professional training and retain a customer-centric mindset through it all. The digital economies of the future are a step away – enabled by high-speed networks, skilled teams, and the continued mutual dedication towards a hyper-connected society.