Cloud communications gold rush

Prepare for Southeast Asia’s cloud communications boom 'gold rush’

See-Kiat Yeo 杨时杰

Executive General Manager - Southeast Asia

June 6, 2023

You read it here first: Southeast Asia will be the next ‘boom’ market for cloud communications.  

In fact, the ’gold rush’ has already started.  

Southeast Asia is a vast, greenfield market for cloud communications. Major technology companies are already making large bets on the region. If you’re a communication service provider or reseller, and you don’t have a plan to scale into Southeast Asia – you should.

How big is the Southeast Asian market?

Consumer market

The ASEAN bloc includes 10 member states in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is a vast and growing market. It’s home to more than 650 million people, a larger population than the European Union or North America, with a nominal GDP of more than $3.6 trillion in 2022. By 2030, about 1 in 6 consuming households globally will be located in Southeast Asia.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is an economic and trading bloc that consists of 10 regional member states. This bloc represents the core nations of Southeast Asia.

Within the ASEAN bloc, Malaysia and Singapore are often ranked among the standout regions. Malaysia is home to 33 million people, and Singapore home to 6 million, a combined population size on par with Canada and other significant markets.

Business & Enterprise

In addition to a sizable consumer market, Malaysia is home to a total 8.8 million operating businesses. Of these, approximately 5000 are foreign multinational companies. Cloud communication providers would be wise to target global organisations with branch offices in the region.

Singapore is home to 580,000 foreign and domestic businesses. The Singaporean economy is weighted towards technology, finance, and professional services. Over 37,000 international companies, including 7000 multinationals, have an office or headquarters in this city state.  

By building a presence in Malaysia and Singapore, communication service providers not only have a compelling domestic market but can gain access to the wider ASEAN market too.  

Does Southeast Asia have reliable broadband infrastructure?

Source: Ookla 2020

Over the past 5 years, ASEAN nations have invested heavily to improve internet access and mobile coverage. Government policies are driving digital transformation and cloud adoption, at record rates.  

Across the ASEAN bloc, each individual region is building up digital infrastructure at a different pace. Once again, zooming in on Singapore and Malaysia:


Singapore is high-tech nation: one of the four ‘Asian Tiger’ economies. Its depth of technical capability is the envy of many nations. As a small, densely populated nation, the population enjoys near-universal internet access with some of the fastest speeds in the world.


Malaysia is an emerging economy (one of the five “Tiger Cubs”). Internet access is improving rapidly, and recently ranked as the third fastest in Southeast Asia. In addition, a forthcoming Malaysian 5G roll-out will improve mobile data speeds and coverage across the nation.

It is no surprise that global tech companies are keen to establish local offices in Singapore, Malaysia and across Asia-Pacific. Malaysia is a particular favourite, attracting large investments from Cisco, Microsoft, Google and Alibaba. Southeast Asia is quickly becoming a prime technology market.  

How valuable is the cloud communications market?

Asia-Pacific is often overlooked when sizing and analysing the cloud communications market. While the US and Europe will remain dominant in terms of revenue, it is likely that future growth will come from outside these regions. We are already seeing momentum build in Asia and Oceania.

Source: Mordor Intelligence

Robust growth in traditional voice  

Around the world, businesses are ‘cutting the cord’ on fixed line communications. But in Asia and Oceania, demand for traditional business voice services (PBX) is stronger than ever. Recent OMDIA data shows PBX revenue growing at healthy double digit rates in Asia-Pacific, bucking global trends.

One explanation is that many businesses in the region are connecting phone and internet services for the first time, growing the total market size.  

Meanwhile, there is a certain degree of cloud skepticism in Asia-Pacific that nudges businesses to choose fixed-line or on-premise phone services.  

Common objections to ‘pure’ cloud solutions include concerns about security, service management, and the complexity associated with cloud adoption.  

But cloud service providers should not be discouraged. Asia-Pacific is in the early adoption phase. We expect that these concerns will ease over time as cloud communication vendors build trust with local enterprises – giving way to rapid growth.  

Forecast growth in cloud communications

Cloud communications adoption is slowing in North America and Europe. By contrast, Asia-Pacific is a greenfield region with a sizeable population and increasing penetration of fixed voice and cloud technology. The region is primed for a cloud communications boom – and market watchers are beginning to take notice.

Southeast Asian regions, especially Malaysia and Singapore, are riding a once-in-a-generation wave of technology change. Investment and innovation are flooding into these regions, supercharging demand for cloud-based calling, conferencing, and messaging.  

Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS)

In the ASEAN region, which encompasses Malaysia and Singapore, UCaaS adoption is forecast to achieve a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 12.27% over the next 5 years. The recent surge in fixed voice connections (which most analysts do not account for) may further accelerate growth in the region, as local companies transition to ‘pure’ cloud deployments.

Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS)

The CPaaS market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 45.5% in Asia-Pacific, and reach more than $28 billion (USD) in value by 2030. While this target might sound ambitious, this builds on 40% annual CPaaS growth already recorded in 2021.

Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS)  

Contact centres are expected to shift to the cloud too. Many outsourced contact centres are based in Asia-Pacific and often run on traditional PBX and fixed lines.  

As more Asia-Pacific companies move away from legacy systems over the coming years, the CCaaS and Customer Experience (CX) software market will grow. Recent forecasts put growth at approximately 20% CAGR, doubling in size within 5-7 years.

Hybrid working takes hold in Southeast Asia

The rocket-fuel behind this growth is of course demand for hybrid working and collaboration, especially from global businesses connecting branch offices in Southeast Asia.  

Sub-regions like Singapore and Malaysia, which are business hubs and have reliable internet and stable government, are often the first choice for US companies wanting remote workers and branch offices.  

As more international businesses enter Malaysia and Singapore, and the domestic economy grows up around them, UCaaS, CCaaS and CPaaS will be in high demand. Seeing these trends, service providers would do well to prioritise their expansion into Southeast Asia.

How to scale cloud communication into Southeast Asia?

Historically, it has been a major technical and legal undertaking to scale communications coverage outside the US and Europe. But as growth slows and competition increases in home markets, providers are looking to Asia-Pacific to find future growth.

Today, the barriers to global scale are disappearing, thanks to new-generation carriers expanding their coverage of Southeast Asia. Cloud communication providers from any part of the world can now scale into Southeast Asia with speed and confidence.  

Local Regulatory Knowledge

Adding coverage in a new region means having to understand and adapt to local telecom regulations. For example, fixed number porting can have different requirements in different countries; or may not be allowed at all. (Case in point: Malaysia is expected to allow fixed number porting very soon). If you are an out-of-region provider, your understanding of these local nuances can supercharge, or derail, your entire go-to-market.

This is where a local carrier partner is needed. Unlike an out-of-region voice aggregator, who may not have in-market expertise, a local partner knows the regulations and the roadblocks. They work with regulators and local telecoms companies every day and can help accelerate market entry.  

Speed to Market

Entering a new region means building the capability to terminate calls and route SMS through local carrier interconnects. In practice this means contracts, porting agreements, infrastructure colocation, interoperability testing, capacity planning and redundancy allocation – many months of effort.

Fortunately, carrier innovation is accelerating the process.  

In Southeast Asia, service providers have the option of a ‘regional hub’ where they can use one carrier interconnect to serve both Singapore and Malaysia.  

Connecting via a ‘regional hub’ effectively halves the establishment cost, and time, needed to enter these two markets.  

Reliability and Call Quality

For voice-centric services, like SIP Trunking, network reliability is key. In a recent OMDIA survey, reliability was a ‘top 3’ criteria for 68% of participants, ranked higher even than price, features, and security. Simply put, end users are willing to pay more if they can count on a reliable network.

Source: OMDIA 2022

The reliability of your communication service is only as good as the carrier network you choose.  

When serving Southeast Asia, be sure that your supplier operates infrastructure within the regions you want to serve. This is the best way to ensure reliability and call quality. The main reason is that domestic calls are originated and terminated entirely within a country.

While this sounds basic, some providers – those without in-region networks – may route your calls to other regions (wherever their infrastructure is based) and then back, which takes longer, creating latency and other reliability issues. By contrast, connecting directly with an in-region carrier means you can deliver the best possible call quality and reliability every time.

In-region infrastructure is also the hallmark of a high-quality carrier partner. It demonstrates that they have a deep commitment to the region. They have invested to build a true carrier-grade network: high-availability, geo-redundant and rapidly scalable.

If your customers care a lot about reliability – why compromise?

We’re here to help

At Symbio, we help communication providers scale into Asia-Pacific. We understand the complexities of operating in this region. Whether you need to connect to a customer’s satellite offices, or become a local licensed operator, we can help.  

Our capabilities cover Southeast Asia and Oceania, including:

  • Voice carriage & number hosting
  • Local regulatory expertise
  • ‘Regional hubs’ for rapid interconnect
  • High-availability carrier-grade network
  • Worldwide support & 24/7 GNOC (Global Network Operations Center)

Cloud communications is booming in Singapore, Malaysia and across Southeast Asia. Don’t miss your chance to serve these important regions. The ‘gold rush’ has begun – it’s time you staked your claim.

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