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Cisco: 5G to support more than 10% of global mobile connections by 2023

Annual internet report suggests that by 2023, there will be 3.6 networked devices or connections per person and nearly 10 devices and connections per household

“A continuous rise in internet users, devices, connections, and more demand on the network than we could have imagined” – that is the top-level finding of the Cisco annual internet report, which predicts a world of 5.3 billion global internet users on 29.3 billion connected devices by 2023.

The study, which supersedes Cisco’s longstanding Visual networking index, says this would mean that two-thirds of the global population will have internet access by 2023, with average broadband speeds rising from 46Mbps to 110Mbps. Average Wi-Fi speeds are likely to triple from their current level to reach 92Mbps, and average mobile speeds will also more than triple to reach 44Mbps, it said. Wi-Fi speed advances include performance innovations provided by new Wi-Fi 6 capabilities.

Cisco also calculates that, in three years’ time, there will be 3.6 networked devices or connections per person and nearly 10 devices and connections per household. Nearly half (47%) of all devices and connections will be video capable, and machine-to-machine connections that support a broad range of internet of things (IoT) applications will represent about half of all global devices and connections, totalling 14.7 billion, it says.

Yet even if the study’s overall findings for general connectivity are impressive, drilling down into the research shows that it will be an increasingly mobile connected world. The study predicts that, by 2023, 45% of all networked devices will be mobile-connected – 3G and below, 4G, 5G or Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) – and 55% will be wired or connected over Wi-Fi.

Global 5G connections are forecast to represent 10.6% of total mobile connections in 2023, compared with a mathematical zero in 2018, and global LPWA connections are expected to account for 14.4% of total mobile connections, compared with 2.5% in 2018.

The real action in wireless is set to be between 5G and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, with 5G speeds in 2023 set to be 13 times higher than the current average mobile connection of 575Mbps.

Cisco has also calculated that, by 2023, a 5G connection will generate two and a half to three times more traffic than a 4G connection. Looking at what can actually be done with a so much faster network connection, Cisco noted that 4G growth and adoption was driven largely by the growth of smartphones and use of a wide variety of new mobile applications.

It believes 5G will continue to support that activity/behaviour, but its initial growth will be driven by IoT applications. Cisco adds that with advanced performance capabilities, 5G will deliver more dynamic mobile infrastructures for AI and emerging IoT applications, including autonomous cars, smart cities, connected health and immersive video.

The study says global Wi-Fi hotspots will grow four-fold from 2018 to 2023, resulting in nearly 628 million global public Wi-Fi hotspots, up from 169 million in 2018. By 2023, global Wi-Fi 6 hotspots are tipped to grow 13-fold from 2020 to 2023, probably forming 11% of all public Wi-Fi hotspots – and the study expects 27.4% of global WLAN endpoints to be equipped with Wi-Fi 6 by 2023.

Read more about 5G and Wi-Fi 6

One current trend that is set to continue is the offloading of a significant portion of cellular traffic onto Wi-Fi networks. Cisco does not see this changing in the foreseeable future, and predicts Wi-Fi speeds from mobile devices to grow three-fold globally from 30.3Mbps in 2018 to 92Mbps by 2023.

Looking at the UK in depth, Cisco calculates in the Annual internet report that, by 2023, there will be 63.8 million total internet users (93% of the population), up from 59.8 million (89% of the population) in 2018. It says the UK will have 719 million networked devices by 2023, up from 415.4 million in 2018, a compound annual growth rate of 11.6%.

The study expects there to be 10.5 networked devices per capita by 2023, up from 6.2 per capita in 2018, and 3.1 of these will be mobile connected devices, up from 1.8 in 2018. Interestingly, the percentage of all networked devices used in business applications are predicted to be the same as for 2018, at 26%.

In the UK, there are likely to be 41.9 million total 5G connections by 2023, with 5G accounting for 19.5% of total mobile connections, says the report.

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