Ericsson predicts 5G will grow faster than expected

Ericsson 5G sign
Ericsson predicts 5G networks could cover up to 65% of the world's population by 2024. (Ericsson)

Ericsson has revised upward its mobile 5G growth predictions as adoption of 5G has accelerated more quickly than the company anticipated.


Ericsson’s latest “Mobility Report” predicts there will be 1.9 billion mobile 5G subscriptions globally by the end of 2024, up from the 1.5 billion subscriptions by 2024 that it had predicted in its November 2018 Mobility Report. The company attributed the 400 million subscription increase to “rapid early momentum and enthusiasm” in the global market around 5G. 

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Patrik Cerwall, head of strategic marketing and co-author of the report, told FierceWireless there are more early 5G devices available than the company had initially predicted. He pointed to China, specifically, as a surprising early driver of 5G mobile subscriptions.


Ericsson predicts 5G networks will cover 45% of the world’s population by 2024, but noted that coverage could surge to 65% if operators adopt spectrum sharing technologies that enable 5G deployments on LTE frequency bands.


RELATED: T-Mobile says dynamic spectrum sharing needs low- and mid-band spectrum


The report notes that operators have set more ambitious coverage targets for their 5G networks, with some operators aiming to cover 90% of their footprints in the first year of deployment. Handset availability will also drive quicker adoption. The report points out that by the end of 2019, 5G handsets for all main spectrum bands will hit the market, helping to drive some 10 million 5G mobile subscriptions globally by the end of 2019.


*Standalone (Ericsson Mobility Report June 2019)


Cerwall hinted that consumers will likely transition to 5G more quickly than they transitioned to 4G, which became available just two years after the first smartphone was launched. “It was quite a big transition,” Cerwall said.


“Now there’s 5 billion smartphones,” he said, adding that it’s easier for people to think about upgrading to a 5G phone if they live in an area with 5G coverage. “The ecosystem is much bigger.”


Cerwall also noted that infrastructure and networks will be easily upgraded from 4G to 5G. “All these things make it a little bit smoother,” he said.


Overall, 5G uptake will be fastest in North America. Ericsson predicts 63% of mobile subscriptions in the region will be 5G by 2024. It predicts Northeast Asia will see 47% of mobile subscriptions being 5G by then, and 40% of European mobile subscriptions will be 5G.


RELATED: Ericsson CEO: Europe needs to speed up 5G deployments or miss out


Mobile data, meanwhile, will continue its exponential rise. The report predicts mobile data traffic will rise 82% in Q1 2019 compared to Q1 2018, reaching 131 exabytes (EB) per month by the end of 2024. Ericsson predicts 35% of that data will be traveling over 5G networks by then.