5G subscriptions were outpaced by 4G in 2022, a potential cause for concern that the older technology is retaining its majority share of global mobile connections, according to new data from Omdia.
And 4G is expected to remain dominant for many years.
In fact, Omdia forecasts that 4G subscriptions will begin to decline in 2024 but will retain its majority share through all mobile connections until 2027. In 2022, 5G subscriptions increased by 446 million but 4G subscriptions increased by 592 million.
However, by 2027, 5G will account for 5.9 billion subscriptions in 2027, equivalent to 70.9% population penetration.
Omdia said multiple factors have slowed the transition to 5G including:
- Lower handset sales due to inflation or living crisis
- Poor network coverage
- Low performance gain perception
- Lack of 5G specific applications
- Slow conversion of non-handsets (internet of things, connected laptops, wearables)
"5G subscription reporting in 2022 has led us to reduce our 2023 forecast by 7.2% - approximately 150 million subscriptions,” said Garinder Shankrowalia, senior market forecaster at Omdia. “We anticipate the industry will regain this loss from 2025, once global market conditions are improved."
How to increase adoption
Omdia said mobile operators should continue to invest in 5G mobile networks to allow application emergence and the overall digital economy to grow. Additionally, multiple cellular technologies running concurrently on mobile networks are having a negative effect on operators as 5G increases complexity and cost for little return in the short term.
"There needs to be a 'net-zero' approach to network development, removing the old as the new gets deployed,” said Ronan de Renesse, research director at Omdia. “Operators are already starting to move capital from next generation network deployment to 3G decommission projects and digital transformation. Key stakeholders should remain realistic about the prospects for 5G and re-evaluate the business case before moving on to the next step."