5G adoption beating subscription records

June 22, 2021 | 09:00
5G remains on track to become the fastest-adopted mobile generation in history with subscriptions increasing at a rate of about a million per day, according to the June edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report. Denis Brunetti, president of Ericsson Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos, shares some of the key insights from the report.
5G adoption beating subscription records
Denis Brunetti, president of Ericsson Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos

5G mobile subscriptions are set to exceed 580 million by the end of 2021, driven by an estimated one million new 5G mobile subscriptions every day. The forecast, which features in the 20th edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, estimates that there will be 3.5 billion 5G subscriptions and 60 per cent 5G population coverage by the end of 2026. However, the pace of adoption varies widely by region.

5G is expected to surpass a billion subscriptions two years ahead of the 4G LTE timeline for the same milestone. The key factors behind that include the earlier availability and increasing the 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 the coming years, spurred by the enhanced role of connectivity as a key component of post-pandemic economic recovery.

Northeast Asia is expected to account for the largest share of 5G subscriptions by 2026, with an estimated 1.4 billion 5G subscriptions. Mobile subscriptions in the Southeast Asia and Oceania region 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. The Southeast Asia and Oceania region will also see data traffic per smartphone growing at the fastest rate globally, reaching 39GB per month by 2026 – a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36 per cent. Total mobile data traffic will grow accordingly, with a CAGR of 42 per cent, reaching 39EB per month driven by continued growth in 4G subscriptions and 5G uptake in those markets where 5G has already been launched.

Smartphones and video continue to drive mobile data traffic even as data traffic continues to grow on-year. Global mobile data traffic, excluding traffic generated by fixed wireless access (FWA), exceeded 49EB per month at the end of 2020 and is projected to grow by a factor of close to 5 to reach 237EB per month in 2026.

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

5G CSPs at forefront of fixed wireless access adoption

The pandemic is accelerating digitalisation, as well as increasing the importance of, and need for reliable, high-speed mobile broadband connectivity. According to the latest report, almost nine out of 10 communications service providers (CSPs) that have launched 5G also have a FWA offering (4G and/or 5G), even in markets with high fibre penetration. This is needed to accommodate increasing FWA traffic, which the report forecasts to grow by a factor of seven to reach 64EB in 2026.

5G adoption beating subscription records
5G adoption beating subscription records

Massive IoT on the rise

Massive Internet of Things (IoT) technologies NB-IoT and Cat-M connections are forecast to increase by almost 80 per cent during 2021, reaching almost 330 million connections. In 2026, these technologies are forecast to make up 46 per cent of all cellular IoT connections.

The first IoT devices to leverage 5G capabilities have been industry routers and vehicles. The IoT devices released in 2020 were limited to supporting 5G non-standalone architecture. In the first half of 2021, we have seen the first IoT devices with 5G standalone (SA) capability. 5G SA-capable modules from a few vendors are already available, and additional module vendors are expected to fuel the IoT ecosystem.

We expect to see 5G extend its reach to more IoT device types during the second half of 2021, such as cameras, VR headsets, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Some of these use cases are expected to evolve with time critical communication capabilities during 2022.

The 5G device ecosystem continues to evolve rapidly and outpace historical developments in previous cellular technology generations. 5G adoption is growing in momentum for both the network and device domains:

- Over 300 5G smartphone models either announced or launched commercially;

- Global smartphone shipments are expected to grow 7 per cent on-year in 2021;

- 5G device pricing continues to decline, with retail prices supporting low and medium frequency bands under $250 outside China and $400 for devices with mmWave support in the United States; and

- 5G SA continues to evolve as more markets enable it with: 5G-native voice over NR services; support for network slicing; dual connectivity using an NR anchor carrier (NR-DC), allowing use of mmWave spectrum in SA networks; the first chipsets and devices with NR carrier aggregation capability available from Q2/2021; new device chipsets for mmWave spectrum bands will lower the price points for these devices during 2021.

Mobile technology has been at the centre of Vietnam’s rapid digital transformation and inclusive GDP growth journey. As critical national infrastructure, 5G will undoubtedly be the enabling platform for Vietnam’s vision of leveraging science, technology, and innovation in driving and creating the next wave of inclusive and sustainable socioeconomic development. 5G mobile network capabilities will play a pivotal role in achieving the government’s digital transformation programme by supporting an accelerated adoption of Industry 4.0 across the nation.

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