Ericsson projects more than 1 billion people will be using 5G by 2026

In the latest edition of the “Ericsson Mobility Report,” the technology company projects that 4 out of 10 mobile subscriptions in 2026 will be 5G. Companies offering 5G technology have been aggressive in rollouts and partnerships which accelerated the transition, especially for telecommunications operators.

In the report, the company estimates that 15% of the world’s population (one billion) will live in an area that has 5G coverage. In 2026, 60% of the world’s population will have access to 5G coverage, with 5G subscriptions forecast to reach 3.5 billion.

Ericsson has raised its year-end 2020 estimate for global 5G subscriptions to 220 million, as service providers continue to build out their networks. The increase is largely due to rapid uptake in China, reaching 11% of its mobile subscription base. This is driven by a national strategic focus, intense competition among service providers, as well as increasingly affordable 5G smartphones from several vendors.

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“This year has seen society take a big leap towards digitalization,” said Fredrik Jejdling, Executive VP and head of Networks, Ericsson. “The pandemic has highlighted the impact connectivity has on our lives and has acted as a catalyst for rapid change, which is also clearly visible in this latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report.”

North America is expected to end the year with about 4% of its mobile subscriptions being 5G. Commercialization is now moving at a rapid pace and by 2026, Ericsson forecasts that 80% of North American mobile subscriptions will be 5G, the highest level of any region in the world.

Devices and applications

Europe will end the year with about 1% 5G subscriptions in the region. During the year, some countries delayed auctions of the radio spectrum needed to support the 5G deployment.

“5G is entering the next phase, when new devices and applications make the most out of the benefits it provides, while service providers continue to build out 5G,” Jejdling said. “Mobile networks are critical infrastructure for many aspects of everyday life and 5G will be key to future economic prosperity.”

The report also highlights why 5G success will not be limited to coverage or subscription numbers alone. Its value will also be determined by new use cases and applications, the first of which have already started to emerge.

Critical IoT, intended for time-critical applications that demand data delivery within a specified time duration, will be introduced in 5G networks. This will enable a wide range of time-critical services for consumers, enterprises, and public institutions across various sectors, with 5G public and dedicated networks.

Cloud gaming is another emerging application category. The combined capabilities provided by 5G networks and edge compute technologies will enable game streaming services on smartphones to compete with a quality of experience (QoE) on par with PC or console counterparts, opening up for innovative, immersive games based on mobility.

5G functionality

The rate of introducing 5G New Radio (NR) functionality is increasing, with more than 150 5G device models launched commercially. Many devices support 5G Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) and dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS). The first 5G standalone (SA) networks have been launched in Asia and North America, as well as the first devices capable of NR carrier aggregation.

With the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating digitalization as well as increasing the importance and need for fast and reliable home broadband connectivity, the number of service providers offering fixed wireless access (FWA) is on the rise. Almost two-thirds of service providers now have an FWA offering. FWA connections are forecast to grow more than threefold and reach more than 180 million by the end of 2026, accounting for about a quarter of total mobile network data traffic.