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Mobile innovation in Asia is developing fast; faster than the western world realizes according to the Director General of GSMA, Anne Bouverot, who opened the Mobile World Congress in Shanghai yesterday.

“There are 1.8 billion uniques subscribers in the Asia region, and it’s growing faster than other regions… Asia is driving innovation, more than people in the U.S. and Europe understand.” Bouverot pointed to examples including the rapid expansion of 4G networks and the number of regional leaders in LTE technology.

“Growth is coming from China. Deployment of 4G in China is faster than Europe and faster than the US,” she added, also noting that “in terms of production of handsets, 90% of the models of handsets were produced in Asia.”

South Korea was singled out for their fast adaption to 5G, and both South Korea and Japan as frontrunners in the innovation of LTE technologies, with an adoption rate faster than both the U.S. and Europe. Bouverot also added that leaders in the mobile industry still have a lot to do in Asia, with penetration still well below the global average. 

Other speakers at the event pointed to a mobile-first tendency in Asian countries with both developed and emerging markets in the region skipping desktop connectivity in favor of mobile.

Telenor CEO, Jon Fredrik Baksaas, case-studied the launch of Telenor SIM cards last year in Myanmar, where total connectivity sits at a regional low and mobile continues to outweigh desktop by a considerable margin. “The very first day in Yangon we had 521,000 new [mobile] connections,” he said. “Its quite the logistical adventure.”

While the market is willing, innovation and development in the region still requires considerable guidance, according to Bouverot. “In the Asia Pacific only a third of people have access to mobile… There is a lot to do, and a lot for us to do as leaders.”

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