There are now 200 5G networks in 87 countries across the world

(Image credit: samsung)

The number of commercially available 5G services reached 200 by the end of 2021, according to the Global Suppliers Association (GSA), which says 99 operators were at least evaluating standalone (SA 5G) technology.

As many as 78 nations now had at least one standards-compliant 5G network, while the GSA’s end of year report also found that four fifths of 5G operators had launched a 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) broadband service.

This progress is indicative of the potential of next generation networks to offer a genuine alternative to fixed-line connectivity.

Global 5G networks 

Overall, the industry body had identified at least 487 operators in 145 countries and territories who were at least at the planning stage of 5G – an increase from 412 last year. Some have held trials, acquired spectrum licenses, or even started the process of deployment but had not yet switched on the network for customers.

Nearly all commercial 5G deployments to date have relied on Non-standalone 5G (NSA 5G), which uses new radio technologies but still relies on the underlying 4G core.

SA 5G uses a new virtual, cloud-based core that allows data to be processed closer to the point of collection and enables features like network slicing. This allows for guaranteed speeds, enhanced reliability and ultra-low latency.Twenty operators in 16 countries have now launched a commercial SA 5G service.

This momentum is having an impact on the device ecosystem. The GSA says 614 5G smartphones have now been announced, an increase of 120% from 2020, a figure which rises to 1257 when other 5G devices such as routers, wearables, and tablets is taken into account.

Many analysts have observed that 5G is the first generation of mobile technology where network availability has accelerated faster than consumer demand and the relevant application and device ecosystems. However, with 857 5G devices available to purchase today, an increase of 155% from last year, consumers certainly have plenty of choice.

A separate report from Juniper Research predicts 5G revenues will reach $600 billion within five years, while Ericsson believes there are now 600 subscribers globally. 

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.