Global 5G subscriptions to reach 1bn by year-end
Despite being relatively new technology, fifth-generation (5G) subscriptions are expected to reach one billion globally by the end of 2022, breaking into the five billion mark by 2028.
For Sub-Saharan Africa, however, 4G will continue to be the main contributor to new connections up to 2028, accounting for more than half of all mobile subscriptions at that time.
This is based on forecasts from the November Ericsson Mobility Report, released today.
Thebi-annual report looks back at the growth of the wireless industry in 2022 and reveals key predictions looking forward to 2028.
While Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy is projected to be one of the fastest-growing regions globally, sustaining growth in the telecoms industry, legacy networks still dominate.
According to the report, 2G connections still account for about half of the total subscriptions, but these are projected to decline as service providers migrate subscribers from 4G and 5G.
“Despite its early stage, the 5G journey has begun in Sub-Saharan Africa in the more mature markets such as South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. 5G subscriptions are projected to constitute around 14% of all mobile subscriptions by the end of 2028.”
In South Africa, mobile data-only network operator Rain became the first telco to activate a commercial 5G network in September 2019.
This was followed by the country’s big mobile operators − Vodacom and MTN − launching 5G services when more spectrum was licensed by the communications regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA.
Last month, Telkom became the latest telco to step into SA’s growing 5G market.
The Ericsson report notes that as Sub-Saharan Africa service providers migrate their subscribers from legacy networks, the growth in 4G and 5G will continue at pace.
“5G is forecast to be the strongest-growing segment, as service providers explore various service offerings requiring high bandwidth and low latency.
“Additionally, availability of a wide range of 5G devices at attractive price points will drive uptake of 5G subscriptions.”
The next-generation network is tipped to open new opportunities for smart cities, businesses, healthcare, manufacturing and autonomous vehicles.
In the manufacturing industry, 5G offers manufacturers the chance to build smart operations and take advantage of technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, augmented reality for troubleshooting, and the internet of things.
From a global perspective, the report indicates service providers continue to deploy 5G, with 228 having already launched commercial 5G services globally.
In addition, deployment of 5G standalone networks also continues, with around 35 service providers having deployed or launched 5G standalone in public networks.
“The most common 5G services launched by service providers for consumers are enhanced mobile broadband, fixed wireless access (FWA), gaming and some AR/VR-based services.
“5G subscriptions grew by 110 million during the third quarter to around 870 million, and that number is expected to reach one billion by the end of 2022.”
Leading 5G subscriptions are North America and North East Asia, which are expected to have the highest 5G subscription penetration by the end of 2022 at around 35%. They will be followed by the Gulf Cooperation Council countries at 20% and Western Europe at 11%.
“In 2028, it is projected that North America will have the highest 5G penetration at 91%, followed by Western Europe at 88%. By the end of 2028, five billion 5G subscriptions are forecast globally, accounting for 55% of all mobile subscriptions.
“5G subscription uptake is faster than that of 4G following its launch in 2009, with 5G expected to reach one billion subscriptions two years sooner than 4G.”
Key factors driving this acceleration, notes the report, is the availability of devices from several vendors, with prices falling faster than for 4G, and China’s early 5G deployments.
“5G will become the dominant mobile access technology by subscriptions in 2027. Subscriptions for 4G continue to increase, growing by 41 million during Q3 2022 to around five billion.
“4G subscriptions are projected to peak at 5.2 billion by the end of 2022, and then decline to around 3.6 billion by the end of 2028 as subscribers migrate to 5G. During the quarter, 3G subscriptions declined by 41 million, while GSM/EDGE-only subscriptions dropped by 44 million and other technologies decreased by about six million.”
FWA connections will reach 300 million by 2028, according to the report. FWA provides primary broadband access through mobile network-enabled customer premises equipment.
The mobility report indicates more than three-quarters of service providers surveyed in over 100 countries are now offering FWA services.
In addition, nearly one-third of service providers are now offering it over 5G, compared to one-fifth a year ago. “During the last 12 months, the number of service providers offering 5G FWA services has increased from 57 (19%) to 88 (29%).”
In 2022, 5G FWA also arrived in emerging markets, states the report.
“Almost 40% of the new 5G FWA launches in the past 12 months have been in emerging markets. 5G FWA has arrived in populous countries such as Mexico, South Africa, Nigeria and the Philippines.”
Ericsson’s forecasts echo industry reports that FWAadoption is at a tipping point.
Last year’s Africa Digital Infrastructure Market Analysis report highlighted operators were deploying FWA, to meet the growing broadband service demand, particularly in the areas outside fibre coverage.
The report showed the highest growth was recorded during the first half of 2021 in regions with the lowest fixed broadband penetration, namely Middle East and Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, Asia Pacific, and Central and Latin America.