Updated: Worldwide 5G subscriptions to hit 24 million in 2021


This is according to Ovum’s recent 5G Subscription Forecasts report 

There will be over 24 million 5G subscriptions worldwide by the end of 2021, according to Ovum’s recent 5G Subscription Forecasts report.

The first 5G networks are due to be launched commercially in 2018 through Sweden’s TeliaSonera, and globally by around 2020 – including here in the UK.

Despite 4G still being in its infancy, with numbers only recently passing one billion, Ovum has already predicted the Middle East and Africa will become the biggest adopters for the technology accounting for around 50 per cent of connections by 2021. North America and Asia will be around 40 per cent, whilst Europe, despite its attempts to become early adopters of the technology will take up just 10 per cent.

Ovum said it expected 5G services will be available in more than 20 markets worldwide, with the vast majority of services being concentrated in the US, Japan, China and South Korea during this period.

Ovum practice leader Mike Roberts commented: “The main use case for 5G through 2021 will be enhanced mobile broadband services, although fixed broadband services will also be supported, especially in the US.

“Over time 5G will support a host of use cases including Internet of Things and mission-critical communications.”

According to Ericsson, who are heavily involved with early testing of 5G technology with operators around the world, there there will be around 28 billion connected devices on the planet in the same 2021 timescale (2G, 3G, 4G), with 12 billion of those accounting for standard mobile SIM connections. Mobile currently accounts for around from 7.4 billion connections today – increasing by around three per cent yearly (63 million in Q1 this year).

Ericsson is currently conducting live testing 5G technology outdoors in Sweden (TeliaSonera) and the USA via a series of test networks and a van which acts as a mobile device (pictured).

The telecoms infrastructure specialists have been trialling a number of 5G base stations in the field using a 5G mobile device which is the size of the van’s luggage rack. It is reporting speeds of 2Gbps during the tests of the technology which is expected to rollout globally in 2020.

Here in the UK, operators (including BT), manufacturers (Huawei, Samsung) have invested more than £70 million in a new 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey to ensure the country is well equipped to launch the technology.

The centre houses over 170 researchers and has attracted more than £70 million of investment, including £12 million from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

It is the world’s largest academic research centre dedicated to next generation mobile and wireless connectivity.

They have already developed a technology that enables speeds of one terabit per second – more than 1,000 times faster than the highest 4G speed.

Opening alongside the Centre is the 5GIC’s new testbed facility, which provides researchers with a fully-functioning 4G network. Eventually, this will be upgraded to include fully-fledged 5G technologies and large scale Internet of Things (IoT).

By 2018, the testbed will be able to deliver 10Gbps per cell – ten times faster than the highest speed available over 4G.