More than half a billion 5G subscribers by end of 2021: Ericsson Report

Ericsson 5G subscriptions
Image courtesy Ericsson

Ericsson projects that 5G mobile subscriptions will exceed 580 million by the end of 2021, driven by an estimated one million new 5G subscribers every day.

The forecast, which features in the 20th edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, enhances the expectation that 5G will become the fastest adopted mobile generation of all time, with 3.5 billion 5G subscribers and 60% 5G population coverage forecast by the end of 2026.

However, the pace of adoption varies widely by region. Europe is off to a slower start and has continued to fall far behind China, the US, Korea, Japan and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) markets in the pace of 5G deployments.

5G is expected to surpass a billion subscriptions two years ahead of the 4G LTE timeline for the same milestone. Key factors behind that include China’s earlier commitment to 5G and the earlier availability and increasing affordability of commercial 5G devices. More than 300 5G smartphone models have already been announced or launched commercially.

This commercial 5G momentum is expected to continue in coming years, spurred by the enhanced role of connectivity as a key component of post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

North-East Asia is expected to account for the largest share of 5G subscriptions by 2026, with an estimated 1.4 billion 5G subscribers. While North American and GCC markets are expected to account for the highest 5G subscription penetration, with 5G mobile subscriptions comprising 84% and 73% of all regional mobile subscriptions, respectively.

Mobile subscriptions in South East Asia and Oceania have now exceeded 1.1 billion, with 5G subscriptions being just below the 2 million mark. 5G subscriptions are expected to grow strongly over the next few years with a forecast total of about 400 million by 2026. South-East Asia and the Oceania region will also see data traffic per smartphone growing at the fastest rate globally, reaching 39GB/month by 2026 – a CAGR of 36%. Total mobile data traffic will grow accordingly, with a CAGR of 42%, reaching 39EB/month driven by continued growth in 4G subscriptions and 5G uptake in those markets where 5G has already been launched.

Martin Wiktorin, Head of Ericsson Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines, says, “5G will play a critical role in digital transformation for enterprises including SMEs as well as MNCs, while enabling a transformative user experience for consumers. As one of the first few markets in the world to have a 5G SA network, Singapore will benefit from the latest 5G technologies that will enable a variety of advanced use cases. This will range from immersive entertainment experiences, smart city applications, to 5G for business solutions empowering higher efficiency and productivity.”

5G already changing smartphone user behaviour in Singapore

The latest Ericsson ConsumerLab report – Five Ways to a Better 5G – highlights accelerated consumer intent to upgrade to 5G despite the current COVID-19 pandemic. This year, 1 million smartphone users in Singapore are likely to upgrade to 5G. The study shows that 28% of users already own a 5G ready smartphone while still on a 4G plan, indicating a need to address the 5G knowledge gap.

In Singapore, 5G is now driving changes in usage behaviour, with 5G triggering the first-time usage of enhanced media, cloud gaming and XR. 40% of users have started streaming HD videos, while 14-19% have increased their usage of AR apps, cloud gaming. 5G users are now spending 3 hours more per week streaming HD videos and 1 hour more on cloud gaming and AR than 4G users. At the same time, 18% of consumers have decreased their Wi-Fi usage after upgrading to 5G.

Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has also fuelled the need for better connectivity indoors. For consumers, 5G indoor coverage at public places has become two times more important than mobile data speed in delivering satisfactory 5G experiences. 

The report further finds that speed and need for innovative apps and services are equally important to satisfy early adopters’ 5G experience. Additionally, 18% of consumers are willing to pay 18% more for bundled plans with digital services if high impact “business ready” use cases are commercialized. This includes 5G TV, high-speed cloud, Hi-Fi music, Cloud Gaming, In-venue as well as remote immersive experiences for sports and concerts, which are all likely to persuade consumers to upgrade to 5G premium plans.

According to the report – Five Ways to a Better 5G – the 5G consumer market could be worth USD 31 trillion by 2030 globally, with communications service providers (CSPs) able to secure USD 3.7 trillion of this on the back of 5G connectivity.

This edition of Ericsson Mobility Report includes four feature articles:

  • T-Mobile pursues a multi-band strategy
  • Businesses build 5G on Wireless WAN foundation
  • AI: enhancing customer experience in a complex 5G world
  • Planning in-building coverage for 5G: from rules of thumb to statistics and AI

Read the latest Ericsson Mobility Report here and the CosumerLab report here.

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