5G subscriptions will hit the 150 million mark by 2021, just a year after the first commercial networks are due to launch, with uptake expected to prove faster than the initial demand for 4G, according to Ericsson’s 2015 Mobility Report.
Ericsson’s latest report is the first time the Swedish vendor has included forecasts for “5G subscriptions”, which it defined as having a “device capable of supporting LTE Evolved or NX, connected to a 5G enabled network, supporting new use cases”.
In a London briefing earlier today to discuss the findings, Ericsson’s Patrik Cerwall, head of strategic and tactical marketing, explained the thinking behind forecasting for 5G subscriptions, five years before launch. He said the figures were based on both Ericsson’s reporting model, as well as conversations with operators.
“We see 5G as the later stages of 4G, and this network will also be able to run on 2G and 3G networks,” he said. “5G is built on 4G, and with the road it is on, we see all mechanics are in place for it to go faster than we did with initial 4G.” He also said Ericsson still did not know how the market would actually measure traffic on 5G when it comes to launch.
The bulk of 5G uptake will come from South Korea, Japan, China and the US initially, while the company predicts mobile broadband subscriptions as a whole will more than double from today’s figures by the same year.
The report states mobile broadband subscriptions hit 3.4 billion in Q3 2015, and is forecast to grow to 7.7 billion by 2021, while mobile subscriptions as a whole will reach 9.1 billion, with LTE making up the largest share of all subscriptions, totalling 4.1 billion.
The company added the 4G standard reached around 850 million subscriptions in Q3, and could reach its first billion by the end of this year.
Mobile data to surge
Other key highlights from the report showed that total monthly mobile data traffic is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of “around 45 per cent”, with the rising number of smartphone subscriptions and increasing data consumption per subscriber set to result in a 10 fold increase in total data traffic for all devices by the end of 2021. During the briefing, Cerwall said the high figures actually “came as a little bit of a surprise, as growth acceleration for video actually recently began to decline”.
Forecasts for mobile video traffic also stood out, with traffic from video set to become “increasingly dominant”, with forecasts for it to grow 55 per cent annually through to 2021, when “it will account for around 70 per cent of all mobile data traffic” (click image to enlarge).
In 2015, video accounted for almost 50 per cent of mobile data, while 15 per cent of traffic came from social networking. This however did not account for video from social media, revealed Cerwall, with Ericsson opting to put this under the separate video bracket.
Speaking of T-Mobile US’ plans to offer video data streaming for free on select services, Cerwall said the move was “risky”: “As we have shown, it’s a bit risky to do free video as that is what is significantly driving up traffic.”
Asia-Pacific will have the largest share of mobile data traffic in 2021, with China forecast to add 260 million mobile subscriptions alone.
In keeping with scaled back projections for the number of connected devices, which Ericsson had initially claimed would reach 50 billion by 2020, the company said there would be 28 billion devices connected by 2021, with more than 15 billion on M2M and consumer electronic devices by the timeframe.
“There are as many mobile subscriptions as people in the world, and every second 20 new mobile broadband subscriptions are activated,” said Rima Qureshi, SVP and Chief Strategy Officer at Ericsson. “Apart from mobile phones, there will also be a multitude of other connected devices communicating.”
5G to go “beyond mobile broadband improvements”
Within the report, Ericsson also talked up the potential for 5G, claiming that the mobile network “will offer significantly higher throughput, lower latency and more data capacity compared to previous generations of mobile broadband services”.
The company said it had built a prototype for applying 5G networking functions and data analytics to public transport, with one case study it is working on designed to optimise the operations of public buses.
Ericsson said a 5G world will help optimise urban traffic flows, enabled by reliable connectivity with data analytics, with dense urban mobile coverage able to provide ubiquitous connectivity, opening up opportunities to improve public transportation, resulting in reduced congestion and increased availability.
“As mobile technology evolves towards 5G, network services with mission critical data traffic, such as instructions sent from a cloud service to a driver or an automated vehicle, will coexist with other types of network services,” read the report.