"Digital solutions and services contribute up to 10% of GDP among ASEAN economies. While embracing the digital economy is important for local governments, equally important is enabling enterprises to address the evolving needs of the consumer," said Mei Lee Quah, Principal Industry Analayst, ICT, Frost & Sullivan Asia-Pacific.
The majority of transformative technologies and activities under these government-driven initiatives happen indoors for example at homes, offices, transportation hub, shopping centres, and even manufacturing plants. As of today, over 80% of network traffic originates from indoors, and this number is set to increase to 96% with the onset of 5G. As a result, the indoor experience will become increasingly important going forward.
"The inability of Distributed Antenna System (DAS) as the current indoor architecture to facilitate the much higher data rates needed to satisfy demand and maximum efficiency required presents a bottleneck, especially for local government agendas," said Quah.
She continued, "Digital Indoor System (DIS) will play a vital role as key infrastructure. Data driven marketing and data centric innovation are key industry trends where mobile network operators (MNOs) are uniquely positioned regionally as custodian of DIS data that can enable a diversity of smart solutions and services to address varying and evolving needs, particularly in regional highly dense areas such as stadiums, airports and transportation hubs."
Regional DIS deployments include the Shatin to Central Link (SCL) of Hong Kong's Mass Transit by HKT and in airports with high passenger flow in Indonesia, Singapore and Philippines. Airport DIS implementations in the region emulate Turkey's new airport in Istanbul, which is the largest airport in the world with a DIS deployment. Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) is working on its Airports 4.0 digital initiative to make Malaysia's airports smart and in doing so, stay competitive in the airline business. Within these deployments, DIS helps MNOs manage the scalability of capacity needed on short notice to ensure all relevant data is captured.
"For governments, DIS with its higher spectrum efficiency as compared to DAS and ability to operate at 5G frequency bands can help to drive the digital economy more intelligently and efficiently. Local governments need to plan for indoor solutions as essential for national ICT roadmaps," said Quah.
With the rise of smart cities across the region, DIS enablement can be considered as part of construction standards to ensure the solid foundation to realizing true intelligent buildings and reaping the benefits of it.
Quah added, "It is essential that regulators drive incorporation of standards and policy that support adoption of DIS into national level plans. Specifically in Malaysia, government agencies need to consider amending the Uniform Building By-Laws 1984 (UBBL) to ensure readiness of digital indoor architecture infrastructure in new buildings. A similar enabling policy is already in place in Singapore under the code of practice for info-communication facilities in buildings 'COPIF'."
Regulators also need to work towards reducing DIS deployment difficulties with site access and infrastructure sharing, ensure compatibility of DIS by verticals by country and help enterprises to cultivate more digital business through understanding and removing bottlenecks.
For MNOs, the incentive to consider DIS is driven by their need to maintain profitability and even more so with the upcoming 5G technology requiring more sites. Longer term investment horizons for indoor sites and site acquisition/management difficulties will drive adoption of DIS, especially through infrastructure sharing. DIS can create new opportunities for monetization while reducing total cost of ownership and ROI. Industry case studies have shown that MNOs can look forward to reducing ROI to less than four years[i] with DIS.
For Building owners, DIS can enable monetization of new digital services and operational efficiency improvements. Recent surveys show a high correlation between lack of reliable internet connectivity and rental decision, lease terms and pricing. Within this context, joint investment in DIS or rent free space like rooftop can be seen as a small price to pay to ensure future monetization of digital services and rental income.
"DIS looks set to play a vital role as key infrastructure for now and into the future. Through enabling the direct linkages and contribution to the digital economy, local government and regulators will be able to achieve significant improvement to people's lives. Through new opportunities for monetization, MNOs will be able to stay innovative, relevant and 5G ready," said Quah.