The pace of introducing new 5G functionality has increased in 2020 in both the network and device domains, despite uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report published by Ericsson. The telecom vendor expects that more than 1 billion people will have access to 5G coverage by the end of 2020.
By the end of 2020 approximately 15 percent of the world’s population will live in an area that has 5G coverage rolled out. The November 2020 Ericsson Mobility Report also estimates that in 2026, 60 percent of the world’s population will have access to 5G coverage, with 5G subscriptions forecast to reach 3.5 billion.
Ericsson has raised its year-end 2020 estimate for global 5G subscriptions to 220 million, as service providers continue to build out their networks. The increase is largely due to rapid uptake in China, reaching 11 percent of its mobile subscription base. This is driven by a national strategic focus, intense competition between service providers, as well as increasingly affordable 5G smartphones from several vendors.
North America is expected to end the year with about 4 percent of its mobile subscriptions being 5G. Commercialization is now moving at a rapid pace and by 2026, Ericsson forecasts that 80 percent of North American mobile subscriptions will be 5G, the highest level of any region in the world.
Europe will end the year with about 1 percent 5G subscriptions in the region. During the year, some countries delayed auctions of the radio spectrum needed to support 5G deployment.
“This year has seen society take a big leap towards digitalization. The pandemic has highlighted the impact connectivity has on our lives and has acted as a catalyst for rapid change, which is also clearly visible in this latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report,” said Fredrik Jejdling, Executive Vice President and Head of Networks, Ericsson. “5G is entering the next phase, when new devices and applications make the most out of the benefits it provides, while service providers continue to build out 5G. Mobile networks are a critical infrastructure for many aspects of everyday life and 5G will be key to future economic prosperity.”
New Use Cases and Applications
The November 2020 Ericsson Mobility Report also highlights why 5G success will not be limited to coverage or subscription numbers alone. Its value would also be determined by new use cases and applications, the first of which have already started to emerge.
Critical IoT, intended for time-critical applications that demand data delivery within a specified time duration, will be introduced in 5G networks, according to the report. This would enable a wide range of time-critical services for consumers, enterprises and public institutions across various sectors, with 5G public and dedicated networks.
Cloud gaming is another emerging application category. The combined capabilities provided by 5G networks and edge compute technologies would enable game streaming services on smartphones to compete with a quality of experience (QoE) on par with PC or console counterparts, opening up for innovative, immersive games based on mobility.
The November 2020 Ericsson Mobility Report can be downloaded here(Adobe PDF) for free.