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North America leads charge as global 5G connections surge

A 66% increase in 2023 sees 7.6 billion 5G global connections at the end of the year, driven by strong North American market, with total set to rise to 7.9 billion by 2028

Research from mobile industry trade organisation 5G Americas reveals that the wireless telecommunications industry saw a year of unprecedented growth and innovation in 2023. It was propelled by “the unstoppable momentum of 5G technology”, which has resulted in the market adding 700 million 5G connections through the year, reaching a grand total of 1.76 billion.

Using data from research organisation Omdia, 5G Americas found that there are 314 commercial 5G networks worldwide, and this number is anticipated to grow to 450 by 2025, reflecting significant investments in 5G infrastructure worldwide.

North America emerged as a trailblazer in 5G adoption, with connections in the region comprising 29% of all North American connections by the end of 2023. Notably, the region experienced what 5G Americas described as a “staggering” 64% year-over-year (YoY) growth in 5G connections, adding 77 million new connections to its network.

By the end of 2023, North American 5G connections totalled 197 million connections. The research found that the number of deployed 5G networks globally shows strength compared with legacy 4G LTE deployments – and in the case of North America, it almost matched 4G LTE networks deployed.

Latin America saw substantial progress in both 4G LTE and 5G connections, with LTE connections reaching 582 million by the close of 2023, adding 40 million new connections YoY. Moreover, the region is described as having embraced the 5G revolution, with 39 million 5G connections established by year-end, setting the stage for further expansion.

With the propulsion in the roll-out of 5G networks, the study noted that 5G data traffic is expected to account for 76% of all technology data traffic as it reaches a 2.6 billion terabytes (or 2,600 exabytes), with all technology data traffic reaching 3.4 billion TB (or 3400 EB) by 2028. This is said to reflect the exponential growth trajectory of 5G connectivity.

Looking at key use cases based on 5G technology, 5G Americas said that the internet of things (IoT) ecosystem remains a vital component of the digital revolution. The study forecast that global IoT subscriptions stand at 3.1 billion, complemented by 6.6 billion smartphone subscriptions. Forecasts suggest that IoT subscriptions will reach 4.5 billion, while smartphone subscriptions will surge to 7.4 billion by 2026.

Commenting on the study, 5G Americas president Chris Pearson said: “The wireless telecommunications industry stands at the cusp of a new era, driven by innovation, collaboration and a shared vision for a connected future. With fixed wireless access continuing to drive consumer broadband demand, new technology milestones are advancing unparalleled connectivity experiences worldwide.”

José Otero, vice-president of Latin America and the Caribbean for 5G Americas, added: “4G LTE is still the strongest technology across the region, although various factors, including 5G handset mass market availability and completion of spectrum auctions will see an increase in 5G coverage, and subscriber growth in the coming year.”

Assessing future developments, Omdia forecasts that global 5G connections will no less than “skyrocket” to 7.9 billion by 2028, with North America forecasted to boast 700 million 5G connections by the same year.

“With this forecast, 5G will reach the global milestone of accounting for more than half of all connections by 2028. For North America, as an early leader, 5G will be more than 80% of connections,” said Omdia’s principal analyst, Kristin Paulin.

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