5G to hit one billion connections by 2022

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The long-term impact of Coronavirus on 5G adoption will be limited, according to new forecasts from analysts at CCS Insight that predict there will be more than one billion connections by 2022.

The pandemic has resulted in some short term disruption. Lockdown measures have restricted the ability of operators to build 5G infrastructure, caused regulators to delay auctions of new spectrum, and have lowered demand for new smartphones.

Accordingly, CCS’s forecasts for 2020 and 2021 are lower than they were pre-pandemic. However the easing of restrictions in China, coupled with strong 5G momentum in the country and more affordable handsets means the overall forecast is still optimistic.

5G forecasts

Analysts note that 5G networks have launched in 17 countries and believe the global mobile phone market will have made a full recovery by 2022 – exceeding sales figures in 2019. By 2023, is its predicted there will be 3.2 billion 5G connections – a quarter of the overall figure globally. China will reach the 100 million milestone this year and the 1 billion mark in 2024.

"The arrival of new chipsets and fierce competition in the shrinking global mobile phone market will lead to a quick introduction of 5G in more moderately priced smartphones in 2020,” said Marina Koytcheva, CCS Insight's vice president of forecasting.

“We're going to see prices of supporting devices tumble below $400 faster than previously expected, a trend that will be instrumental in 5G becoming more accessible to a much wider demographic.”

“Strong desire from local operators to make up for delays caused by Covid-19 in the first quarter, combined with enthusiastic support from the government, wide availability of more-affordable 5G handsets and the unrelenting ambition of local network equipment and handset manufacturer Huawei, will spur demand,” added Kester Mann, head of CCS Insight’s consumer and connectivity research.”

The forecasts come with the caveat that there is still ongoing uncertainty and that an economic slowdown could impact both adoption and rollout.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.