The number of 5G mobile subscriptions is expected to hit 1 billion worldwide by year-end, as telcos continue to build out their networks. North East Asia and North America lead the way clocking a penetration rate of 19% and 28%, respectively, last year.
More than 20 service providers launched 5G standalone networks last year, with twice the number expected to follow suit in 2022, according to Ericsson's latest mobility report.
5G subscriptions climbed 70 million in the first quarter of 2022 to reach 620 million. China saw the most net additions for the quarter at 16 million, followed by the US at 4 million and Bangladesh at 3 million.
Ericsson noted that it had revised its 2022 projections downwards by some 100 million due to weaker economic conditions and uncertainties over the Ukraine war.
By end-2027, global 5G subscriptions would hit 4.4 billion, accounting for 48% of overall mobile subscriptions.
5G also was clocking faster adoption compared to 4G following its launch in 2009, hitting the 1 billion subscription mark two years quicker than 4G. Ericsson attributed the accelerated growth to device availability, prices dipping faster than they did for 4G, and wide and early 5G deployments in China.
North America, though, would have the highest 5G penetration by 2027, at 90%. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) would have the next highest penetration rate of 88%, followed by Western Europe at 82% and North East Asia at 74%.
4G subscriptions still saw growth of 70 million in the first quarter, pushing the total number of 4.9 billion before peaking at 5 billion by year-end. It would dip to 3.5 billion by 2027 as more moved over to 5G, according to Ericsson.
For now, 4G remains the dominant network in regions such as Southeast Asia and Oceania, where it accounted for 48% of all subscriptions last year with almost 100 million 4G lines added. The region clocked just 15 million 5G subscriptions last year, though, this figure was expected to more than double this year.
5G mobile subscriptions would increase at a compound average growth rate (CAGR) of 83% in Southeast Asia and Oceania through to 2027, when it would hit 570 million. This number would represent a penetration rate of 46%, almost equal that of 4G at 47%.
Ericsson noted that there were some 15 commercial 5G mobile networks currently in the region, including Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Trials also were running in other markets such as Cambodia and Vietnam.
Mobile data traffic per smartphone for the region was projected to hit 45GB per month in 2027, up from 9.4GB last year. This would be the highest CAGR globally, which would hit an average mobile data traffic of 40GB per month in 2027.
Over in North East Asia, some 275 million 5G subscriptions were added last year, with telcos in key 5G markets such as China and South Korea seeing "positive impact" on service revenues and ARPU (average revenue per user), the report noted.
More than 650 5G smartphone models had been launched. More than 615 million units of 5G devices were shipped last year, more than double the number in 2020.
Smartphone shipments climbed 6% worldwide last year, but growth this year was expected to be impacted by geopolitical conditions, ongoing supply chain constraints, and China's COVID-19 situation.