US overtakes China as world leader in 5G cities

19 April 2023
The U.S. became the leader in the number of cities with 5G networks overtaking China for the first time. Finland came in third place with 137 5G-enabled cities. Source: Viavi.

The United States has 503 cities with 5G networks, a growth of 69% from this time last year. This growth has allowed the U.S. to surpass China for the first time as the world leader in the number of 5G cities, according to new data from Viavi Solutions Inc.

This is a substantial uptick from the 297 cities with 5G networks recorded in the U.S. in May of 2022. By comparison, China has remained static at 356 cities with 5G networks since last year, Viavi said.

However, China remains ahead in other key metrics such as data speeds, 5G subscribers and base stations deployed.

“2022 was 5G’s graduation year,” said Sameh Yamany, CTO at Viavi Solutions. “It evolved from being a developed markets phenomenon into a global phenomenon.”

The tipping point

According to Viavi’s “The State of 5G” report, 5G connectivity has reached a tipping point worldwide where it is active in 47 of the world’s 70 largest economies by GDP.

There are 2,497 cities globally with commercial 5G networks strung across 92 countries. A further 23 countries have pre-commercial 5G trials and 32 countries are planning 5G networks. This leaves only 48 countries that have not publicly announced plans for 5G, many of these small island nations.

In terms of private 5G networks, about 44% of the publicly announced private deployments are in the manufacturing sector. Opportunities exist in numerous other sectors such as internet of things (IoT) applications like smart factories and smart cities.

The EMEA region contains the most cities with 5G networks followed by APAC and the Americas. There were 18 new countries that launched 5G networks in 2022. Source: Viavi The EMEA region contains the most cities with 5G networks followed by APAC and the Americas. There were 18 new countries that launched 5G networks in 2022. Source: Viavi

5G standalone and mmWave

Standalone (SA) 5G networks, which are networks built using core 5G technology and not piggybacked on existing 4G infrastructure, are gaining momentum globally.

Viavi said that as of January, there are 45 5G SA networks globally across 23 countries. This is nearly a doubling of the number of non-standalone networks globally in the same period last year.

With a near doubling of 5G SA networks, “more operators will start to realize more of the long-promised commercial benefits of 5G, while consumers and businesses in those countries may start to notice improved network speeds,” Viavi said in the report.

“With a near doubling of Standalone 5G networks, the capabilities of 5G have expanded significantly and we can look forward to more sophisticated network and business capabilities from operators,” Yamany said. “In the coming year, a major focus will be network quality and the further development of Open RAN technologies — and we’ll be playing our part in ensuring those are as successful as possible.”

Meanwhile, the U.S., China and India are advancing the deployments of millimeter wave (mmWave) technology. mmWave is generally considered to be 24 GHz and above and offers benefits such as higher speeds, lower latency and higher capacity. The downsides are lower ranges of connectivity, equipment costs and the need for repeaters and small cells to boost coverage.

There are several countries licensing mmWave technology with appeal coming from regulators and operators looking to grow revenue streams and advanced 5G proliferation.

The full research can be found in Viavi’s “The State of 5G” report.

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