There are over a billion users of 5G already, with 5bn predicted for 2030, says the latest report by Ericsson.
“We expect to approach one billion 5G users worldwide by the end of this year. Moreover, global mobile network data traffic is practically doubling every two years,” said Fredrik Jejdling. Executive Vice President and Head of Business Area Networks.
5G services have now been launched by 228 service providers, and over 700 5G smartphone models have been announced or launched commercially.
In western Europe, 4G is widely deployed and is expected to have the highest penetration of all regions at 82 percent by the end of 2022 but 5G subscription growth has been strong during the year, rising from 32 million in 2021 to 63 million by the end of 2022.
4G is expected to decline in favour of substantially increased 5G subscription uptake from 2023 onwards, reaching 150 million at the end of 2023, and penetration will reach 88 percent by the end of 2028. Many service providers will be sunsetting 3G networks in the next few years to enable the reuse of radio spectrum for 4G and 5G.
The situation is different in in central Europe, where adoption and subscription uptake are typically slower, partly as a result of slower spectrum allocation and consumers being reluctant to upgrade to more expensive subscriptions.
4G remains the dominant technology in this region, accounting for 75 percent of all subscriptions at the end of 2022 and mobile subscription growth is expected to be virtually zero in the coming years.
However there is a key challenge with sustainability and the climate emergency. The higher energy efficiency of 5G protocols and AI-enhanced predictive maintenance can help to cut emissions even with this growth.
- Machine learning helps cut 5G power by half
- Ericsson, Thales team for 5G satellites
- Ericsson shows record 700MHz 5G link
“The telecommunications sector has a key role to play in addressing global sustainability goals, by reducing its own emissions and enabling the digitalization of a range of services and industries. According to Ericsson research, the usage of ICT solutions in other sectors has the potential to reduce emissions by 15 percent by 2030,” said Jejdling.
“ICT solutions have the potential to lessen the need for material usage by substituting physical products with digital products and services, within both the ICT and other sectors,” he said.
“To reduce the environmental impact, the growing data traffic needs to be managed with smart network modernization, combined with a balanced approach to network performance and use of energy-saving functionality to break the trend of increasing energy usage in mobile networks.
“Service providers are taking actions to deploy the latest generation of energy-efficient radio hardware and software, increase the use of renewable energy sources and operate site infrastructure intelligently, for example by implementing predictive-maintenance methods on site.”
Internet of Things
The figures don’t include connections in the Internet of Things, which remains dominated by 4G technology ahead of the roll out of 5G New Radio (NR) systems. But Ericsson has increased its forecast for such systems, with almost 60 percent of cellular IoT connections are forecast to be broadband IoT, with 4G connecting the majority.
Globally, 124 service providers have deployed or commercially launched NB-IoT networks and 57 have launched Cat-M, while 56 have deployed both technologies.
The number of devices connected by these technologies grew strongly in 2021 and is expected to reach almost 500 million by the end of 2022 as spectrum sharing enables co-existence with 4G and 5G in FDD bands. The rate of switch-off for 2G and 3G networks continues to increase in the coming years.