5G subscriptions and the 5G experience so far across the Asia Pacific region generally gets good scores from the recent benchmarking report. South Korea, not surprisingly, is in the lead.
What is interesting – and should make the region’s tech industries proud – is that compared to many parts of the world, the region is way ahead.
Ericsson predicts that 5G subscriptions will hit 580 million by the end of this year (from 220 million at the end of last year) and will 3.5 billion by the end of 2026.
North-East Asia has the highest penetration of 5G subscriptions in the world right now, but Ericsson sees this changing and by 2026, and it believes that North America will have taken over, with 84% penetration.
All of which is encouraging for 5G subscriptions. But other reports and statistics show that the rest of the world, outside Asia Pacific, has a lot of catching up to do.
A report from Statista (sourced from OpenSignal data) on 5G download speeds tells a sobering story. Compared to 4G, 5G speeds in South Korea are 161.8 Mbps, compared to 13.5 on 4G. That is a remarkable difference, and it is clear to see why 5G subscriptions have surged in South Korea. Australia, too, has a good report, with 5G hitting 61.5 Mbps compared to 8.5 on the 4G network.
So confident is South Korea in the demand for ever greater speeds, and in the take up of 5G subscriptions, it has announced that it plans to launch the first 6G network in 2028.
In the United States, the news is not good. The 5G subscription experience is poor by anyone’s standard, with speeds of just 14.2 Mbps, barely faster than 4G in South Korea (and remember Ian Fogg pointed out that 4G has had a decade to mature). This from the country whose (ex) President commanded the telecoms industry to be a leader in 5G (and 6G). In fact, France, Brazil and Japan can only boast 5G speeds of between 15 and 19 Mbps, ten times slower than South Korea.
For North America to catch up and overtake most Asian countries’ 5G subscriptions in five short years is a huge ask. Right now, the speed of the networks is just not fast enough to build anything resembling compelling, differentiated applications on.
If North America does overtake Asia Pacific in 5G subscriptions, we will be watching the speed tests closely to ensure there is no ‘dimpled chad’ moment and what the country boasts of as 5G really isn’t.