BY ONOME AMUGE
As service providers around the world continue to accelerate the switch to fifth generation technology (5G), the latest innovation in cellular technology renowned as the fastest-deployed mobile communication technology in history has been projected to exceed one billion global subscriptions in 2022 from 660 million estimated subscriptions at the end of 2021. Global 5G subscriptions are also expected to reach 4.4 billion or 75 percent of the world’s population by 2027, according to the June 2022 Ericsson Mobility Report.
The biannual report, which offers industry-leading insights into the future of the mobile world as well as forecasts of mobile coverage, subscriptions and traffic, said 5G device shipments more than doubled in 2021 over 2020 and surpassed 615 million units shipped while global smartphone shipments rose 6 percent in 2021 compared to 2020.
Ericsson, a world-leading provider of telecommunications equipment and related services to mobile and fixed network operators globally, said, however, that deployment of the technology was limited in 2022 due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis which has led to supply chain constraints, and the Covid-19 situation in China.
The deployment of 5G standalone (SA) networks also recorded a significant increase, with more than 210 networks commercially launched across the world at the end of 2021 as service providers prepare for innovation to address the business opportunities beyond enhanced mobile broadband.
Currently, the most common 5G services that service providers have launched for consumers include enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), fixed wireless access (FWA), gaming and AR/VR-based services, with manufacturing (smart factories), transport, smart cities and ports being the most common segments targeted.
Key factors attributed for 5G’s swift penetration include the timely availability of devices from several vendors around the world, falling prices compared to 4G, China’s early large deployments, and an optimistic outlook for extended reality (XR) use cases over the intermediate term based on XR glasses, headsets or heads-up displays as peripherals connected to smartphones or other 5G smart devices.
Though 4G usage is projected to increase by 70 million during the first quarter of 2022 to around 4.9 billion and peak at 5 billion at the end of the year, the technology is expected to decline to around 3.5 billion by the end of 2027 as subscribers migrate to 5G.
For other networks, the Swedish multinational networking and telecommunications company said 3G subscriptions dropped by 49 million, GSM/EDGE-only subscriptions declined 59 million, while other technologies decreased by about 5 million during the first quarter of 2022.
North America and North East Asia currently have the highest 5G subscription penetration, followed by the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Western Europe. In 2027, it is projected that North America will have the highest 5G penetration at 90 percent.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of 4G subscriptions grew by 26 percent, and strong growth is expected to continue during 2022 as migration towards 4G devices from 3G continues to be an important driver for 4G subscription uptake, which in turn drives the growth of mobile data traffic.
According to Ericsson, 3G mobile data traffic is still dominant and increasing in the region, but the majority of traffic growth is expected to be in 4G, buoyed by the growing demand for mobile voice and data services and Investment in telecom infrastructure, while 5G technology is still in its infancy stage.