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Russia will lead the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in the commercialisation of 5G services, with the region's other markets all launching 5G networks by 2025, according to the GSMA's report.

"5G networks have the potential to transform the digital economy for businesses and citizens alike and our latest report highlights how Russia and the CIS region is preparing to enter this exciting new era," said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. "However, in order to capitalise on the tremendous potential of 5G in driving socio-economic growth, regional governments and regulators must adopt policies, such as access to spectrum, that encourage inward investment and encourage the development of the mobile industry."

The CIS region had 235 million unique mobile subscribers at the end of 2018, with Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan together accounting for 80 percent. The region has a high unique subscriber penetration rate of 81 percent, notably in Russia which is approaching saturation point. Future growth will be limited to less than 9 million new unique subscribers in the CIS by 2025. However, the region is also seeing an accelerated shift to mobile broadband driven by greater demand for data-intensive services and higher speeds. 4G is set to become the region's leading mobile technology in 2021, and will account for over two-thirds of total connections in 2025.

The report highlights how delivering 5G connectivity will increase capital intensity for operators, while current uncertainty around spectrum access could be a potential barrier to releasing value into the digital economy. 5G networks have the potential to underpin a range of innovative solutions for businesses and consumers; however, policymakers should also harness the power of 5G to drive growth and the transformation of traditional industries. The regulatory framework should foster the mobile industry's development within an environment that is conducive to investment. This should be underpinned by a comprehensive national 5G development plan.

The mobile industry contributed $101 billion or 4.7 per cent of GDP to the CIS regional economy in 2018, which is forecast to increase to $122 billion (5.1 per cent of GDP) by 2023. In 2018, the industry contributed 620,000 jobs through direct employment or indirectly through activity in the wider economy. An additional $12 billion was raised in 2018 via general taxation. 5G-related technologies are expected to contribute $34 billion to regional economy over the next 15 years.

The report also highlights the potential for operators to expand their businesses beyond traditional communications in areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT), where smart homes and smart buildings will be two key growth verticals out to 2025. The mobile industry is also exploring and implementing applications of artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technologies, as well as injecting greater funds into the start-up ecosystem to protect itself from disruption and diversify the revenue mix.

Copyright Associated Press, 2019

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