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Forecast: 5G half of mobile subs by 2027

May 3, 2023

5G mobile subscriptions stood at 1.7 billion at the end of 2022, accounting for 18 per cent of total mobile subscriptions worldwide, according to data and analytics company GlobalData. The figure is forecast to rise to 5.5 billion, occupying a share of 48 per cent of total mobile subscriptions by 2027.

GlobalData’s 5G – Thematic Report reveals that 5G penetration will rise from 53 per cent at the end of 2022 to 162 per cent in the US by 2027. In Europe, it will rise from 15 per cent to 88 per cent; in China, from 86 per cent to 154 per cent; and in India, from 1 per cent to 40 per cent over the five-year period.

“5G has not yet taken off as many network operators had hoped, and the technology still needs a strong, mass-market business-to-consumer (B2C) use case beyond fixed wireless access (FWA),” advises Laura Petrone, Principal Analyst, Thematic Intelligence at GlobalData. “Given how difficult they have found it to command a premium rate for B2C 5G services, wireless operators’ quest for propulsive consumer 5G use cases will continue. Cloud gaming, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) are among the areas likely to be mined for opportunities.”

However, there are signs that enterprises are more willing to consider 5G as a primary access service. 5G is not yet widely available in its standalone (SA) form, which offers its full capabilities (not only higher speed but also low latency and high device densities for the Internet of Things), in most markets. Wherever it is available (e.g., in the US), there are clear signs that enterprises are warming to it.

“Enterprises will increasingly look at wireless connectivity for branch offices in the more fluid hybrid work environment,” predicts Petrone. “Private 5G, in particular, is positioned as a complement to in-building WiFi networks that, along with edge computing, will enable real-time applications such as AR, VR, video analytics, and autonomous vehicles and robots.”

Inflation and resource shortages, two key macroeconomic trends in 2023, will likely impact 5G adoption. On the one hand, service providers remain under the combined pressures of increased wages and costs, particularly energy costs, and of delivering next-generation fixed and wireless access services, including full-fibre and 5G. On the other hand, hardware shortages, particularly chips, risk slowing 5G handset shipments and, ultimately, the pace at which consumers acquire 5G handsets.

“The US and some other countries have banned the sale and import of telecom equipment from Huawei and ZTE amid concerns over national security. Next-generation telecom standards, including 5G and 6G, will play an increasingly dominant role in the ongoing battle for tech supremacy being waged between the US and China,” she concludes.

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