North America “will lead the way” when it comes to regional 5G uptake, with the technology accounting for a quarter of all mobile subscriptions in the region by 2022, according to Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report.
Ericsson’s study tipped North America to steal a march on rival regions, such as Asia-Pacific and Europe, when it comes to 5G market penetration by 2022, a timeframe that is two years after an industry-wide consensus on when services will launch globally.
There has been a big push across all three regions in particular on being first to 5G, with Asian players earmarking a goal to launch 5G by 2018, in time for the Winter Olympic Games in Korea, but North America is still forecast to reach the highest penetration globally in the early stages.
However, worth noting (and something Ericsson’s report doesn’t focus on) is the fact that Asia Pacific will have a far higher number of total 5G subs than North America, given its much larger mobile base.
In total, there will be 550 million 5G subscriptions in 2022, said Ericsson, with Asia-Pacific emerging as the second most penetrated region (see chart left, click to enlarge). By that year, 10 per cent of the region’s total subscriptions will be based on 5G, while Western Europe will lag just behind.
The company’s forecast for 2022 represents a sharp rise from its report last year, which estimated there will be 150 million 5G subscriptions by 2021.
IoT forecasts dampen
When it comes to connected devices, Ericsson however appeared to further dampen growth forecasts, estimating there will be 29 billion devices connected by 2022, with 18 billion related to IoT.
In June 2015, the company said there would be 26 billion connected devices by 2020, the first time it slashed its well-publicised vision of 50 billion connected devices by the same timeframe (this time last year it also said there would be 28 billion by 2021).
The relatively slow growth (at least compared to the previous huge headline figure) is something of a surprise considering the amount of noise around 5G’s role in increasing the number of interconnected devices, and the Internet of Things.
In the more immediate future, by the end of this year Ericsson forecasts 3.9 billion smartphone subscriptions, with 90 per cent of the total registered on WCDMA/HSPA and LTE (“mobile broadband”) networks.
This smartphone total will rise to 6.8 billion by 2022, when 95 per cent of the base will be on LTE, WCDMA/HSPA, and 5G networks.
By the end of the same time period, there will be a total of 8.9 billion mobile subscriptions globally, said Ericsson, with a mammoth 90 cent for mobile broadband, and a total of 6.1 billion unique mobile subscribers.
Ericsson’s chief strategy and technology officer, Ulf Ewaldsson, believes mobile broadband uptake will only increase.
“Almost 90 per cent of smartphone subscriptions are on 3G and 4G networks today and standardised 5G networks are expected to be available in 2020,” he said. “We are already seeing a great interest among operators in launching pre-standard 5G networks.”
Mobile broadband subscriptions meanwhile grew 25 per cent year on year, increasing by around 190 million in Q3 2016, reaching a total of 4.1 billion. Data traffic also grew 10 per cent sequentially in Q3, and 50 per cent year on year, driven by video content in particular.