Networking giant Ericsson has predicted that 5G will reach 20 percent of the global population as of 2023, with 1 billion subscriptions to be held by then.
Ericsson's latest Mobility Report states that 5G will be deployed across metro and dense urban areas initially, with the first commercial networks to go live in 2019 as early deployments are predicted in South Korea, Japan, China, and the United States.
"To a large extent, 5G is driven by use cases with a wide range of requirements. One of the first commercial uses for 5G is expected to be for fixed-wireless access, implying a coverage build-out in urban areas," Ericsson explained.
"Other use cases will come from industries such as automotive, manufacturing, energy and utilities, and healthcare, and will drive demand for dedicated coverage."
Mobile traffic is forecast to increase by eightfold during the same period, to reach 110 exabytes per month by 2023, Ericsson said, adding that this will be driven by streaming video in increasingly higher resolutions, as well as by 360-degree viewing solutions.
Ericsson also found that there are now 5 billion mobile broadband subscriptions in total across the globe after 95 million new subscriptions were added during the third quarter of 2017: 1.56 billion in APAC, 1.395 billion in China, 1.185 billion in India, 1.015 billion in Africa, 700 million in Latin America, 585 million in Central and Eastern Europe, 520 million in Western Europe, 425 million in the Middle East, and 380 million in North America.
LTE coverage had reached 55 percent of the world's population by 2016, with Ericsson predicting that it will reach 85 percent by 2023. In total, 3GPP cellular technologies have reached 95 percent of the global population.
"It is forecast that there will be 9.1 billion mobile subscriptions by the end of 2023. Mobile broadband subscriptions will reach 8.5 billion, accounting for close to 95 percent of all mobile subscriptions. The number of unique mobile subscribers is estimated to reach 6.2 billion by the end of the forecast period," Ericsson said.
"Mobile broadband will complement fixed broadband in some segments, and will be the dominant mode of access in others."
According to Ericsson, voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology has now been deployed in over 125 networks in 60 countries across all regions, with VoLTE subscriptions to hit 5.5 billion at the end of 2023.
Gigabit LTE networks, meanwhile, have now been commercially launched by 14 providers worldwide -- including the network launched at the start of this year by Telstra and Ericsson in Australia -- while 212 4G networks have been upgraded to LTE-A.
Ericsson last month predicted that 5G could enable a 48 percent incremental revenue opportunity for Australian mobile operators by 2026, with up to $13.5 billion worth of digitalisation potential to tap into.
There are three potential roles for operators, according to Ericsson MD for Australia and New Zealand Emilio Romeo: As pure network providers; as service enablers; and as service creators, with telcos that offer all three of these to tap into the full $13.5 billion up for grabs.
Romeo said that the operator-addressable 5G digitalisation revenues are across automotive, retail, manufacturing, financial services, public transport, agriculture, media and entertainment, healthcare, energy and utilities, and public safety.
Globally, there will be $619 billion in operator-addressable 5G digitalisation revenues across these 10 sectors, he said.
According to Ericsson, Asia-Pacific will be "one of the early movers in 5G by 2022", with 10 percent of all mobile subscriptions in the region to be from 5G by that date.
Ericsson has said it will be kicking off "more elaborate field trials" in China in January next year, following research with Intel to complete the first ever 5G multi-vendor end-to-end interoperability development test across the 3.5GHz spectrum band in China in September.
Trials of 5G with operators across the globe have seen Ericsson attain data transfer speeds of 3.6Gbps on connected cars with SK Telecom and BMW; download speeds of between 18Gbps and 22Gbps during the first live trial of 5G in Australia with Telstra; use its 28GHz radios, virtualised RAN (vRAN), and full 5G virtualised core for trials with AT&T; attain speeds of over 6Gbps during trials with Verizon during the Indianapolis 500 motor race in addition to working with Verizon on 11 pre-commercial 5G trial networks across the US; and achieve 1Gbps speeds with 5G-connected cars in partnership with Intel, Toyota, Denso, and NTT DoCoMo.
Ericsson also recently opened a 5G design site in Texas to develop and test core microelectronics for radio base stations, as well as collaborating with nearby silicon-fabrication plants in Austin on designing solutions ahead of 5G commercialisation.
Having this year developed a "research breakthrough" in 5G network technology with IBM Research on a new silicon-based millimetre-wave (mmWave) phased array integrated circuit and added a frequency-division duplex (FDD) radio with support for 5G and Massive MIMO to its 5G platform, Ericsson said it now has "the most complete 5G portfolio in the industry".
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