CCS Insight: 5G to take off faster than any previous mobile technology
Written by: Sam Fenwick | Published:

According to CCS Insight’s 5G forecast published today (18 October), 5G connections will reach 1 billion worldwide in mid-2023, taking less time than 4G to reach this milestone.

The company expects that much of this impetus will come from China, predicting that as early as 2022 the country will account for more than half of all 5G subscribers and that it will still represent more than 40 per cent of global 5G connections by 2025.

Report also expects 5G network rollout in Europe to be delayed by at least a year compared to rollouts in China, South Korea, Japan and the US.

5G subscriptions worldwide, 2018-2025; source: CCS Insight Market Forecast: 5G Subscriptions Worldwide, 2018-2025

Marina Koytcheva, VP forecasting at CCS Insight said: "We see China playing a far more influential role in 5G than it did in 4G. Size, scale and economic growth give China an obvious head start, but we expect network deployments to be much faster than in the early days of 4G. China will dominate 5G thanks to its political ambition to lead technology development, the inexorable rise of local manufacturer Huawei and the breakneck speed at which consumers have upgraded to 4G connections in the recent past."

CCS Insight expects subscriptions to 5G networks to hit 2.6 billion in 2025, equivalent to more than 20 per cent of all mobile connections. However, it warns that there are still some uncertainties such as how and where network operators will deploy vast numbers of new base stations, the lack of clear business case for operators, and consumers' willingness to upgrade their smartphones. It notes that in Europe, market fragmentation, the availability of spectrum and the influence of regulators bring additional challenges.

The company sees mobile broadband access on smartphones as the principal area of 5G adoption. By 2025, it will still represent 99 per cent of total 5G connections, according to CCS Insight’s forecast.

Kester Mann, principal analyst, operators at CCS Insight said: "The unrelenting hype that has surrounded 5G for several years has seen a diverse range of applications put forward as the main drivers of adoption. Some of them will be relevant at different times of the technology's development, but the never-ending need for speed and people's apparently limitless demand for video consumption will dominate 5G networks."

Despite this, CCS Insight still expects that fixed wireless access, as a complementary service to fixed line broadband, will be 5G’s commercial application. While it predicts that the US will be an early adopter, thanks to the efforts of advocates such as AT&T and Verizon, the long-term opportunity will remain small and CCS Insight’s forecast sees it representing only a tiny fraction of total connections.

The forecast also predicts that significant numbers of 5G IoT connections are unlikely before the second half of the 2020s, as network operator have only recently begun investing in LTE technologies such as NB-IoT and Cat-M to support devices that have life spans of several years. It aloso expects that mission-critical 5G-based services such as autonomous driving, will have to wait even longer to come to the fore.

Geoff Blaber, VP research, Americas at CCS Insight comments: "5G is about creating a network that can scale up and adapt to radically new applications. For operators, network capacity is the near-term justification; the Internet of Things (IoT) and mission-critical services may not see exponential growth in the next few years but they remain a central part of the vision for 5G. Operators will have to carefully balance the period between investment and generating revenue from new services".

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