Ericsson says a billion people will have access to 5G by end of 2020

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Ericsson is now even more optimistic about 5G adoption, predicting that next-generation networks will cover one billion people by the end of the year, attracting 220 million subscriptions.

The Swedish network equipment vendor says that subscriber numbers alone will not measure the success of 5G, noting that new applications such as IoT will transform businesses, public services, and entertainment, but the positive figures are a major vote of confidence in the technology.

It had been feared that coronavirus would delay rollouts of 5G networks and dampen demand among consumers who may decide they have other priorities given the wider economic situation.

Ericsson 5G subscriptions

Separate studies have suggested that consumers are willing to pay a lower premium for 5G than they were pre-pandemic, however device sales are expected to rebound in Q4 and 5G support will become standard at more price points. Meanwhile, network builds are gathering speed as lockdown restrictions ease in more countries.

Ericsson says 5G deployment is still the fastest of any mobile generation, with strong momentum in China a major factor behind the increased predictions in its latest mobility report.

Adoption in the country has been driven by competition among operators, affordable devices and strong support from the government, which regards 5G as a national priority. Four fifths of all 5G subscriptions by the end of the year will be in China and 5G will account for 11% of all connections.

In North America, 4% of all mobile subscriptions swill be 5G and by 2026, this figure will have risen to 80% - the highest of any region. In Europe, just 1% of mobile subscriptions will be 5G. This is in part due to high quality 4G networks that make an upgrade less attractive but also reflects that many countries have delayed 5G spectrum auctions due to the pandemic.

By 2026, Ericsson says four in ten mobile connections will be 5G, equivalent to 3.5 billion, and will account for more than half of all mobile data globally.

“This year has seen society take a big leap towards digitalization. The pandemic has highlighted the impact connectivity has on our lives and has acted as a catalyst for rapid change, which is also clearly visible in this latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report,” said Fredrik Jejdling, Executive Vice President and Head of Networks, Ericsson.

“5G is entering the next phase, when new devices and applications make the most out of the benefits it provides, while service providers continue to build out 5G. Mobile networks are a critical infrastructure for many aspects of everyday life, and 5G will be key to future economic prosperity.”

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.