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Global 5G market defies macroeconomic challenges

Research from Ericsson shows 5G continues to scale faster than any previous mobile generation, with subscriptions expected to reach five billion by the end of 2028 and fixed wireless access forecast set to grow more quickly than previously expected

The November 2022 edition of the Ericsson mobility report has found that despite current and developing economic challenges in many parts of the world, global 5G subscriptions remain on track to top one billion by the end of this year, and five billion by the end of 2028.

If the current rate of growth is maintained as stated in the report, Ericsson believes 5G will reach the billion subs benchmark two years faster than 4G did. The report also forecasts global fixed wireless access (FWA) connections to grow more quickly than previously expected, being one of the major early 5G use cases, particularly in regions with unserved or underserved broadband markets.

For 5G overall, the study said about 110 million subscriptions were added globally between July and September 2022, bringing the total to about 870 million. Key growth drivers cited include the availability of devices from multiple suppliers, with prices falling more rapidly than for 4G, and China’s large early 5G deployments.

The report also showed that globally, almost 230 communications service providers (CSPs) have launched 5G services to date, with more than 700 5G smartphone models announced or launched commercially.

The five billion 5G subscriptions forecast globally by the end of 2028 would account for 55% of all subscriptions. In that same timeframe, 5G population coverage is projected to reach 85%, while 5G networks are expected to carry about 70% of mobile traffic and account for all contemporary traffic growth. Regionally, North America and North East Asia were said to continue to see strong 5G growth, with 5G subscription penetration in the regions expected to reach about 35% by the end of 2022.

The survey also noted that global 4G subscription numbers continue to rise, growing by about 41 million between July and September 2022. Global 4G subscriptions are expected to reach a peak of about 5.2 billion around the end of 2022. The net result is that overall mobile subscriptions are expected to top 8.4 billion by the end of 2022, and 9.2 billion by the end of 2028. Most subscriptions are associated with smartphones, and at the end of 2022, 6.6 billion smartphone subscriptions are predicted, accounting for about 79% of all mobile phone subscriptions.

Drilling down in 5G, the study saw FWA as a true wireless candidate technology alternative to wireline broadband connectivity for homes and businesses. Driven in part by accelerated FWA plans in India and expected growth in other emerging markets, the report forecast FWA to grow at 19% year on year from 2022 to 2028, and top 300 million connections by the end of 2028.

More than three-quarters of CSPs surveyed in more than 100 countries currently offer FWA services. Almost one-third of CSPs are offering FWA over 5G, compared to one-fifth a year ago. Almost 40% of the new 5G FWA launches in the past 12 months were found to have been in emerging markets.

“Communications service providers continue to deploy 5G and the momentum for fixed wireless access is accelerating,” said Fredrik Jejdling, executive vice-president and head of networks at Ericsson. “Moreover, global mobile network data traffic is practically doubling every two years. As described in this edition of the Ericsson mobility report, service providers are taking actions to deploy the latest generation of energy-efficient radio hardware and software, increase the use of renewable energy sources, and operate site infrastructure intelligently to reduce the environmental impact.”

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