Ericsson projects that 5G mobile subscriptions will rise to more than 580 million by the end of 2021, enhancing expectations that the wireless technology will be the fastest adopted mobile generation.
The growth comes as Ericsson forecasts about one million new 5G mobile subscriptions happening every day. About 3.5 billion 5G subscriptions and 60% 5G population coverage is expected to be achieved by the end of 2026.
Additionally, 5G is expected to surpass a billion subscriptions two years ahead of the 4G LTE timeline for the same milestone. This is the result of China’s early commitment to the technology and earlier availability of commercial 5G devices with more than 300 models already being announced or launched.
Ericsson points to the COVID-19 pandemic as a catalyst for growth as more consumers were given stay-at-home orders and wanted faster speeds to watch entertainment and to do work. Consumer demand for high-speed broadband connectivity also rose during COVID-19 with many telecoms launching 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) to compete with broadband and fiber.
Regionally, Northeast Asia is expected to account for the largest share of 5G subscriptions by 2026 with about 1.4 billion 5G subscriptions. North America and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are expected to account for the highest 5G subscription penetration rate with mobile subscriptions comprising 84% and 73% of all regional mobile subscriptions, respectively.
Data traffic will continue to grow year-on-year, having exceeded 49 exabytes (EB) per month at the end of 2020, and it is projected to grow by a factor of 5 to reach 237 EB per month in 2026.
Smartphones, which currently carry 95% of this traffic, are also consuming more data than ever. Globally, the average usage-per-smartphone now exceeds 10 GB/month and is forecast to reach 35 GB/month by the end of 2026.