Ericsson projects that 5G mobile subscriptions will exceed 580 million by the end of 2021, driven by an estimated one million new 5G mobile subscriptions every day. In its 20th edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, the Swedish telecom gear maker forecasts that 5G will become the fastest adopted mobile generation.
The global 5G adoption
About 3.5 billion 5G subscriptions and 60 percent 5G population coverage are 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 U.S., 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 subscriptions. While North American and GCC markets are expected to account for the highest 5G subscription penetration, with 5G mobile subscriptions comprising 84 percent and 73 percent of all regional mobile subscriptions respectively.
Fredrik Jejdling, Executive Vice President and Head of Networks, Ericsson, comments “This landmark 20th edition of Ericsson Mobility Report shows that we are in the next phase of 5G, with accelerating roll outs and coverage expansion in pioneer markets such as China, the USA and South Korea. Now is the time for advanced use cases to start materializing and deliver on the promise of 5G. Businesses and societies are also preparing for a post-pandemic world, with 5G-powered digitalization playing a critical role.”
The report shows that data traffic continues to grow year 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 percent of this traffic, are also consuming more data than ever. Globally, the average usage-per-smartphone now exceeds 10GB/month and is forecast to reach 35GB/month by the end of 2026.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating digitalization, as well as increasing the importance of, and need for reliable, high-speed mobile broadband connectivity. Almost nine out of ten communications service providers (CSPs) that have launched 5G also have a fixed wireless access (FWA) offering (4G and/or 5G), even in markets with a high fiber penetration,” States Patrik Cerwall, Head of Strategic Marketing Insights, Ericsson and Executive Editor , Ericsson Mobility Report that’s needed to accommodate increasing FWA traffic, which the report forecasts to grow by a factor of seven to reach 64EB in 2026.
Ericsson says, Massive IoT technologies NB-IoT and Cat-M connections are forecast to increase by almost 80 percent during 2021, reaching almost 330 million connections. In 2026, these technologies are forecast to make up 46 percent of all cellular IoT connections.
5G Outlook in India
In India, 5G will represent about 26% of mobile subscriptions by the end of 2026, estimated at about 330 million subscriptions, according to the report. By contrast, 4G subscriptions in India are forecast to rise from 680 million in 2020 to 830 million in 2026, increasing at a CAGR of 3%.
Though 5G network is yet to launch commercially in the country, the technology is likely to be dominant, representing 66% of mobile subscriptions in 2026, with 3G being phased out by that time. 5G will represent around 26% of mobile subscriptions in India at the end of 2026, estimated at about 330 million subscriptions, predicts Ericsson.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) recently allocated 5G trial spectrum in the 700MHz, 3.5GHz, and 26GHz bands to Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea. Following this, Airtel switched on its mid-band 5G trial network on Monday in Gurgaon’s Cyber Hub in the Millennium City, using Ericsson’s 5G gear while Jio commenced its 5G network trial in Mumbai using Made in India 5G gear, from Tuesday.
A separate study by Ericsson published earlier said at least 40 million smartphone users in India could take up 5G in the first year of 5G being made available.
“COVID-19 has accelerated India’s digital transformation as more and more consumers rely on digital services – be it digital payments, remote health consultations, online retail or video conferencing – to fulfil their business or personal needs. Accordingly, the average monthly mobile data usage per smartphone continues to show robust growth, boosted by people increasing their smartphone usage while staying at home,” commented Nitin Bansal, Head of Ericsson India and Head of Network Solutions for South-East Asia, Oceania, and India, Ericsson.
Ericsson forecasts the number of smartphone subscriptions to reach over 1.2 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 7%, up from 810 million in 2020. The net addition of mobile subscriptions during Q1 2021 was, however, low at 59 million globally, with India accounting for the highest net additions (26 million), followed by China and Nigeria, it said.
The report also highlighted that the average traffic per smartphone user in India increased from 13GB per month in 2019 to 14.6GB per month in 2020. The average traffic per smartphone in the India region stands second highest globally and is projected to grow to around 40GB per month in 2026, it said.
While the total mobile data traffic has grown from 6.9EB/month to 9.5EB/month in 2020 and is projected to increase by more than four times to reach 41EB/month in 2026. As per the report, this will be driven by two factors–high growth in the number of smartphone users, including in rural areas; and an increase in average usage per smartphone