Mobile operators are facing a capex requirement of over $600 billion worldwide between 2022 and 2025 of which about 85 per cent will be in 5G networks, according to The Mobile Economy 2022 report from GSMA Intelligence.

Indeed, 5G adoption is rising rapidly, with total connections expected to reach 1 billion in 2022. By the end of 2025, 5G is set to account for around a quarter of total mobile connections, and more than two in five people around the world will live within reach of a 5G network. Some 5.3 billion people globally now subscribe to mobile services of all generations, representing 67 per cent of the global population.

The report finds that 5G momentum has been boosted by a number of factors, including the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, rising 5G handset sales, network coverage expansions and marketing efforts by mobile operators. Meanwhile, a new wave of 5G rollouts in large markets with modest income levels (such as Brazil, Indonesia and India) could further incentivise the mass production of more affordable 5G devices, which in turn could further bolster subscriber growth.

All of this requires considerable network investment from operators, and support from governments is needed to ensure they are able to meet coverage targets. Spectrum is a key factor here, of course. Successful 5G networks and services depend on a significant amount of new harmonised mobile spectrum that is also affordable for operators.

At its core, a mobile spectrum licensing framework should ensure operators have access to sufficient spectrum, provide predictability to support the new network investment needed, and avoid costly restrictions on the use of spectrum beyond those needed to manage interference, the report says.

The report also highlighted the value of mobile technologies and services, which it said generated $4.5 trillion of economic value added, or five per cent of GDP, globally in 2021.

“This figure will grow by more than $400 billion by 2025 to nearly $5 trillion as countries increasingly benefit from the improvements in productivity and efficiency brought about by the increased take-up of mobile services,” the report said.

For its part, 5G is expected to benefit all economic sectors of the global economy during this period, with services and manufacturing experiencing the greatest impact.