Mobile Devices

5G subscriptions to reach 2.6 billion by 2026

03 November 2021

The growth among 5G subscribers is forecast to grow substantially in the next five years, reaching 2.6 billion subscriptions, up from just 264 million last year, according to new data from ABI Research.

The growth is happening despite a slight decline in the subscriber base due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing issues with the supply chain impacting the supply of chips to the market.

China will remain the main target for the 5G market due to heavy investment from Chinese operators. This will result in more than two-thirds of the worldwide 5G subscriptions. The U.S. will be the second leading region with more than 50 million subscribers followed by Japan and South Korea.

"Operators' effort to expand 5G networks, combined with quickly increasing 5G smartphone penetration, will drive 5G subscriptions to reach 507 million at the end of 2021, almost double from 2020," said Khin Sandi Lynn, an industry analyst at ABI Research.

The adoption of subscribers will be helped by mobile operators’ strategies to promote 5G, falling prices and more use cases. This includes:

  • Verizon’s 5G upgrade campaign to encourage users to switch to 5G devices.
  • China Mobile’s new set of applications such as 4K live streaming and cloud-based 5G games.
  • A drop in prices for 5G smartphones to the $400 and below range.
  • Network deployments of 5G for verticals such as healthcare, automotive, smart transportation, industrial applications and more.

"Increasing use of mobile networks to access video content, digital payments, online retail and video conferencing have been contributing to the traffic growth,” Lynn said. “Ongoing 5G roll outs will drive the adoption of higher data packages as well as the use of data intensive applications such as video streaming and gaming to fuel mobile traffic growth in the forecast period."

Mobile traffic is forecast to expand by more than five times in 2026 compared to 2020 with more than half of this traffic generated by 5G networks, ABI said.

"While video is among the major drivers of higher speed connectivity, the ability to bundle 5G mobile packages with AR/VR based services for education, healthcare and social networking can boost 5G business potential in the consumer market,” Lynn said. “Leveraging 5G capability and end-to-end network slicing can also enable operators to capture enterprise opportunities to deliver performance guaranteed services and maximize the ROI.”

The full research can be found in ABI Research’s Network and Technology Market Tracker.

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