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5G set for rapid growth phase as world nears 750 million connections

Study shows global 5G rise of 17% from the end of 2021, accelerated by North American migration to 5G from LTE

More evidence has arrived of the strong growth of 5G networks in the Americas, showing that after three full years of steady growth, global wireless 5G adoption has reached a rapid acceleration phase, touching the milestone of 701 million connections by the end of the first quarter of 2022.

5G Americas, the regional industry trade organisation for leading telcos, service providers and manufacturers, which sees itself as the voice of 5G and LTE for the Americas, cited data from Omdia and TeleGeography that forecast global connections will reach 1.2 billion by the end of this year.

Omdia found that the world added what 5G Americas called a “staggering” 410 million 5G connections from Q1 2021 to Q1 2022, representing a 141% increase from 291 million to 701 million. Sequentially, there was 17% quarter-on-quarter growth, from 598 million in Q4 2021 to 701 million in Q1 2022. The forecasts suggest global 5G connections will accelerate again in 2023, approaching 2 billion and will reach 4.8 billion by the end of 2026.

By region, North America had a total of 82 million 5G connections by the end of Q1 2022, which represented an additional 12 million 5G connections for the quarter, and a gain of 17.7% compared with Q4 2021. Omdia expected a total of 131 million 5G connections to come from North America by the end of 2022. The analyst also calculated that the region had 509 million LTE connections by the end of Q1 2022, reflecting a beginning of the migration to 5G.  

By comparison, 4G LTE is expected to remain the leading wireless cellular technology in Latin America and the Caribbean for now, with Omdia expecting 4G LTE growth to remain strong in the region until the end of 2022. In Q1 2022, there were 506 million 4G LTE connections, representing 3.4% quarterly growth with the addition of 16.4 million new LTE subscriptions. That number is expected to reach 535 million as 5G adoption begins to overtake 4G LTE by the end of 2022. Latin America and the Caribbean are projected to have 28 million 5G connections by the end of 2022, and 307 million by 2026.

“5G continues to be steadily rolled out in connected devices, coverage and spectrum throughout the Americas in the beginning of a new era of innovation,” said 5G Americas president Chris Pearson. “Customers continue to rely on mobile communications networks and devices for new flexible work environments and social interactions during the pandemic.”

Omdia principal analyst Kristin Paulin added: “Oceania Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, and China in particular, continue to drive global trends, as this region accounted for 81.1% of all 5G subs at the end of Q1 2022. After this, North America has the second-largest share of 5G subs with 11.7% at the end of Q1 2022.”

Jose Otero, vice-president of Caribbean and Latin America for 5G Americas, said: “The pandemic heightened the significance of mobile wireless connectivity in our society. The importance of assigning new radio spectrum for additional new deployments will be critical to help the region to progress mobile broadband and recover from the economic and society challenges of the past few years.”

Using data from TeleGeography, 5G Americas said that overall, the number of 5G commercial networks globally has reached 224. The trade association expects that number to reach 313 by the end of 2022 and 352 by the end of 2024, representing strong 5G network investment growth in many regions of the world. Of the current 224 global 5G deployments, the data showed that 25 were in the Caribbean and Latin America and 14 in North America. By contrast, the study found there were 703 global 4G LTE networks, 130 in the Caribbean and Latin America and 19 in North America.

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