Driven by what it says is sustained momentum and a rapidly developing ecosystem, the November 2019 edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report is predicting the number of 5G subscriptions within the next six years to soar past 2.6 billion, with such networks covering almost two-thirds of global population by this time.
Ericsson, which now has more than 75 commercial 5G agreements or contracts with unique communications service providers, of which 23 are live networks, said 5G was going from strength to strength as networks were built out across the world.
It noted a big uptake of 5G subscriptions had taken place in South Korea, with around three million subscribers recorded in just a few months. China’s launch of 5G in late October has also led to an update of the estimated number of 5G subscriptions for the end of 2019, rising from 10 million to 13 million.
Globally, the total number of mobile subscriptions was around eight billion in the third quarter of 2019, with 61 million subscriptions added during the quarter. The number of 4G (LTE) subscriptions increased by 190 million during the quarter to reach a total of 4.2 billion, or 52% of all mobile subscriptions.
The survey forecasts an estimated 13 million 5G subscriptions for the end of 2019 and says the year provides a good indication of what may come for the mobile industry, noting that it “truly astonishing” to see what has happened over the past few years.
It says that after 5G specifications were accelerated in the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), device and infrastructure suppliers took on the challenge to deliver 5G earlier than expected. The company regards it encouraging to see that 5G now has broad support from almost all device makers, and a “very strong” ecosystem.
To date, there have been around 50 5G commercial launches across the world. In South Korea, service providers have committed to building 5G networks that will cover 93% of the population by the end of 2019. Similarly, 5G population coverage in Switzerland is expected to reach around 90% by the end of the year.
The survey says that given its current momentum, 5G subscription uptake will be significantly faster than that of LTE. The most rapid uptake is expected in North America, with 74% of mobile subscriptions in the region forecast to be 5G by the end of 2025. Northeast Asia is expected to follow at 56%, with Europe at 55%.
Year-on-year traffic growth for the third quarter of 2019 remained high at 68%, driven by the growing number of smartphone subscriptions in India, the increased monthly data traffic per smartphone in China, better device capabilities, an increase in data-intensive content and more affordable data plans.
5G is going to see a huge boom in a number of use cases. The total number of cellular internet of things (IoT) connections is now seen at five billion by the end of 2025, from the 1.3 billion likely by the end of 2019, a compound annual growth rate of 25%.
Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and Cat-M technologies are estimated to account for 52% of these cellular IoT connections in 2025. While in all the average monthly data-traffic-per-smartphone is forecast to increase from the current figure of 7.2GB to 24GB by the end of 2025, in part driven by new consumer behaviour, such as mass virtual reality (VR) streaming. Video streaming from services such as Disney+ will make up the lion’s share of future mobile data traffic, accounting for 75% of all traffic by 2025.
Looking at service providers’ tariff plans, the study revealed that most of those that have launched 5G have priced 5G packages about 20% higher than their nearest available 4G offering. Most operators’ investments, traffic and subscriptions are in 2G, 3G or 4G networks.
Commenting on the data revealed in the November 2019 Ericsson Mobility Report, Fredrik Jejdling, executive vice-president and head of networks at Ericsson, said: “It is encouraging to see that 5G now has broad support from almost all device makers. In 2020, 5G-compatible devices will enter the volume market, which will scale up 5G adoption.
“The question is no longer if, but how quickly we can convert use cases into relevant applications for consumers and enterprises. With 4G remaining a strong connectivity enabler in many parts of the world, modernising networks is also key to this technological change we’re going through.”
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