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5G mobile subscriptions predicted to exceed over half a billion by the end of 2021

By Ryan Morris-Reade
Thu 17 Jun 2021

Ericsson predicts 5G mobile subscriptions will exceed over half a billion by the end of 2021, determined by an estimated one million new subscriptions every day.

Featured in the 20th edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, the forecast strengthens the likelihood that 5G will become the fastest adopted mobile generation of all time, with 3.5 billion 5G subscriptions and a 60% 5G population coverage forecast by the end of 2026.

Although, says Ericsson, the pace of adoption varies widely by region. Europe has had a slow start and continues to fall far behind China, the U.S., Korea, Japan, and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

According to the Ericsson ConsumerLab report, in Australia, around 2 million smartphone users plan to adopt 5G in 2021. Ericsson says new user behaviours have already developed as a result, it says compared to 4G LTE users, Australian 5G users are spending 3.5 more hours a week watching high-quality video, and 2.5 more hours using AR apps.

5G is expected to surpass a billion subscriptions two years ahead of the 4G LTE in the same timeline. Factors behind this include Chinas early commitment to 5G, and early availability and increasing affordability of 5G devices. 

“This landmark 20th edition of Ericsson Mobility Report shows that we are in the next phase of 5G, with accelerating rollouts and coverage expansion in pioneer markets such as China, the USA, and South Korea,” says Ericsson executive vice president and head of networks, Fredrik Jejdling.

“Now is the time for advanced use-cases to start materialising and deliver on the promise of 5G. Businesses and societies are also preparing for a post-pandemic world, with 5G-powered digitalisation playing a critical role.

Smartphones and video are driving mobile data traffic, which continues to grow year-on-year. Global mobile data traffic, excluding traffic generated by fixed wireless access, exceeded 49 exabytes per month at the end of 2020 and is projected to reach 237 exabytes per month in 2026.

Smartphones, which currently form 95% of this traffic, are consuming more data than ever. Globally, the average usage-per-smartphone now exceeds 10 GB per month and is forecast to reach 35 GB per month by the end of 2026.

Another large driving factor is IoT technologies, with NB-IoT and Cat-M connections forecast to increase by almost 80% during 2021, reaching almost 330 million connections. In 2026, these technologies are forecast to make up 46% of all cellular IoT connections.

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