As we scan through what has been happening this quarter, we see that the metaverse continues to gain traction. The metaverse could generate a conservative US$5 trillion in value (McKinsey) by 2030 and is just too significant for companies to ignore. Not a day goes by when we don’t see some news about new developments in this space, or companies also joining in the fray. There is a clear potential to unleash the next wave of digital disruption, with real-life benefits already emerging for early adopters.
Of course we cannot forget about 5G. From network slicing to managing digital identities, from Urban Air Mobility to 5G connected healthcare, from the use of AI to advancing Industry 4.0 applications, these all reveal the telcos’ nuanced approaches in unlocking its value. It could be summarized as confidence in the 5G technology remains high, while the business remains a bit more elusive.
IoT continues to showing its potential in key verticals with more deployments coming from Asia – China, primarily. China has become a global IoT force not only as a manufacturing hub and technology supplier, but also as an end market for value creation.
As the financial year gets well under way, we were delighted to kickstart our working groups and meet Bridge Mobile Operators in person here in Singapore, while also travelling to Jakarta and Manila. We’re one of the partners for the GSMA’s Mobile 360 Asia Pacific in Singapore held 2-3 August, so here’s looking forward to more fistbumps and namecard exchanges!
Bridge Alliance Research & Analysis Team
Autonomy is king, Autonomous driving is starting to roll out in Asia. SoftBank is partnering May Mobility for implementation of autonomous driving in Japan, tapping on the former’s 5G network. Over in Malaysia, Maxis, together with electronics company Omron showcased Autonomous Mobile Robots, which will enable a plant with LIVE 4G-enabled Autonomous Mobile Robots to run 24/7 with zero downtime, improving safety and productivity
In Indonesia, Telkomsel launched IoT Smart Manufacturing. a digital solution for the manufacturing industry that covers the entire supply chain ranging from production, quality, maintenance, and warehouse. This integrated end-to-end solution results in increased efficiency, productivity, and security in every company operational process through accurate data analysis.
In Thailand, AIS and NCS’ Telco+ inked a Memorandum of Understanding to co-create digital telco and drive transformation for enterprises. Telco+, a strategic business group within Singtel subsidiary NCS, is a joint initiative between Singtel and NCS to help telecom companies transform digitally and enters the Thai market for the first time with this partnership.
In terms of edge computing, SK Telecom, in collaboration with AWS, built its second 5G edge zone—this time in the Korean capital. The Seoul Wavelength-based 5GX Edge zone adds to the first in Daejeon, built back in December 2020, and will cover network traffic from the top half of the country including the greater Seoul area, while the Daejeon zone will handle the remainder. The “SK Edge Discovery” system will automatically allocate the edge zone based on the current location of users.
In Japan, SoftBank opened its first 5G MEC site in the Kanto region in May and started nationwide deployment of MEC servers in Japan. SoftBank’s 5G MEC platform provides a Kubernetes-based container environment, which is a de facto standard for application development. SoftBank is promoting proof of technology for a wide variety of use cases with participating companies and organizations in the SoftBank 5G Consortium.
On the 5G front, operators are launching POCs or pilots to support new use cases. The possibilities seem endless, just looking at announcements from our BMOs. In Malaysia, Maxis has formed a 5G alliance to accelerate technology breakthroughs and IoT enterprise solutions. The Maxis 5G Alliance comprising 16 initial members comprising major tech companies will scale 5G use cases and innovative solutions across industries. In Thailand, AIS and ZTE have set up a 5G innovation centre as part of a wider agreement to modernise the operator’s mobile networks. They will complete a hub for joint 5G research, and upgrade the operator’s 5G network by using big data and AI to add autonomous network management capabilities.
In manufacturing, Singtel is partnering Hyundai Motor Group to deploy its 5G infrastructure network solutions at the automaker’s Innovation Centre in Singapore (HMGICS) which includes an electric vehicle production facility. It’s said to be first of its kind in the world, and will leverage Singtel’s 5G campus network with mobile edge core solutions that will provide uninterrupted high-speed connectivity and massive bandwidth to enhance HMGICS’s high-precision quality control in manufacturing operations. It will also serve as a testbed for human-centred intelligent manufacturing and verification of Industry 4.0 technologies, supported by Singtel’s AI and IoT capabilities. Separately, Singtel has been appointed by Micron Technology to deploy its 5G mmWave solutions at the semiconductor manufacturer’s 3D NAND flash memory fabrication plant in Singapore. This is a first for a company in the city-state.
In healthcare, AIS Business is now a Turnkey ICT solution provider to the healthcare industry, collaborating with Bangkok-based Vimut Hospital to transform and enhance to the next level of Smart Hospital, supported with modern digital technologies from AIS 5G. The project includes turnkey solutions, full ICT systems management, data management, Data Center, Cloud Contact Center and digital services to provide patients with excellent experiences of the hospital’s services, such as telemedicine.
Over in India, Airtel partnered with Apollo Hospitals and Cisco to create a 5G Connected Ambulance that transforms access to healthcare and save lives in emergency situations. The custom-designed state-of-the-art 5G Connected Ambulance is equipped with the latest medical equipment, patient monitoring applications, and telemetry devices that transmit the patient health data to the hospital in real-time. It is also equipped with onboard cameras, camera-based headgear, and bodycams for paramedic staff – all connected to the ultra-fast & low latency Airtel 5G network, and is further enabled with technologies like AR/VR.
On the AI front, ‘A’ is not just for Alexa. SK Telecom launched an AI service named ‘A.’ in May as an open beta version for Android on One Store and Google Play. ‘A. is built with advanced natural language processing and sentiment analysis technologies. It handles many different tasks on customers’ smartphones, recommends/plays music or video that match their preferences.
Telcos continue to explore the metaverse to see what role they can play. There is no one-size-fits-all as these announcements see telcos move in different directions, but so far it’s mainly been about the consumer metaverse. Notably, PCCW and HKT have partnered with the Sandbox, becoming the first Hong Kong communications and media organisation to join the metaverse. They purchased virtual land in Mega City, and are set to launch the world’s first virtual 5G mobile network and transform traditional film, TV and music content into a Web3-enabled new form of entertainment.
BMOs are looking closely at this space. In June, SoftBank open Japan’s first virtual mobile store with shop crew avatars that can serve customers in ZEPETO, Naver’s metaverse service. Anyone residing in Japan who downloads the ZEPETO app to their smartphone can create a 3D avatar at no cost and visit Softbank’s world with their alter ego. Avatars, operators, and AI bots are available to provide customer service and chat-based support, also supported by real-world store crew members.
Airtel unveiled India’s first multiplex on the Partynite Metaverse platform, as an extension of its Xstream Premium offering. Meanwhile, Globe has also been exploring the metaverse first with cryptocurrency through finance app Gcash, and plans new initiative in Web 3.0 with its corporate venture arm 917Ventures.
On the enterprise side, we’ve seen quite a few announcements mostly around partnerships and new services. Maxis has launched Managed Voice, a fully managed IP-PBX solution that allows enterprises to use their fixed business number on their mobile devices anywhere, with a flexible subscription model to scale at any time. Meanwhile, Telkomsel has partnered IPification, which will enable the operator to improve the security of digital data, and also provide mobile app developers in the region with the chance to implement a top-notch and seamless user verification option.
Optus has extended support of digital eSIMs to MVNOs on the Optus network. Customers of Optus’ MVNO partners will now have the option to sustainably access new mobile services in just minutes, rather than days, just by scanning a QR code for activation.
In South Korea, SK Telecom has opened a VFX studio named ‘TEAM’ (‘Tech-driven Entertainment for Asian Movement’) to strengthen its content production capabilities and expand partnerships with global media companies.
In the UC/ CPaaS space, Asia continues to be a hotbed to develop compelling services. In the Philippines, m360 can now enable local businesses to send SMS to over 230 countries worldwide. It covers all aspects of SMS wholesale business, including over-the-top media services such as Viber for Business, Facebook Messenger, and soon, Whatsapp, Business RCS, chatbots, and other digital messaging solutions. At the same time, the platform allows personalized customer experience via targeted messages. m360 is a portfolio company under AdSpark Holdings, Inc. of 917Ventures, Globe’s wholly-owned corporate venture builder.
We have seen a number of cloud-related announcements, practically all aimed at accelerating digital transformation of enterprise customers. By leveraging the latest cloud-based technologies for seamless cross-border communication and collaboration, HKT and New World Development have formed an alliance to accelerate the digital transformation of NWD’s growing business in Hong Kong and mainland China.
In India, Airtel has acquired a strategic minority stake in cloud-based networking solutions provider Cnergee Technologies under the Airtel Startup Accelerator Program. Mumbai-based Cnergee specializes in integrated networking solutions over cloud for businesses of all sizes and also developed a range of 5G ready software tools for Network as a Service (NaaS) that can be deployed at scale.