Why 2018 is set to wow smartphone users

The short answer? 5G and IoT are about to transform mobility and catapult the industry to new heights.
18 June 2018

In today’s world, mobility is everywhere and all ecompassing. Source: Shutterstock

In the world of mobility, this is an exciting year. It’s also a time of uncertainty for the entire industry, no matter the size of the business or its place in the economy.

Twenty-eighteen is set to go down in history books as the year that changed business, commerce, community, and society, all through increased connectivity and smarter communications.

“This change will require the combined effort of many industry players and regulators to align on the spectrum, standards, and technology,” says the latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report.

The rise of 5G and LTE

The standardization of 5G accelerated during 2017 and 3GPP Release 15 for Non-Standalone 5G New Radio (NR) finalized at the end of the year.

The standard for the Standalone version is expected to be completed in June 2018.

This acceleration of the standardization work plan will enable early 5G deployments in several markets.

According to Ericsson, operators in the United States will be among the first to launch 5G commercial services.

The country’s four major operators have publicly announced that they will begin providing 5G services between late 2018 and mid-2019.

Other markets where significant 5G subscription volumes are expected early include South Korea, Japan and China.

VoLTE subscriptions by region (billion)

Globally, major 5G network deployments are expected from 2020.

“We forecast over 1 billion 5G subscriptions for enhanced mobile broadband by the end of 2023, accounting for 12 percent of all mobile subscriptions,” said the report.

LTE became the dominant mobile access technology at the end of 2017.

The number of LTE subscriptions continues to grow strongly and is forecast to reach 5.5 billion by the end of 2023, when it will account for more than 60 percent of all mobile subscriptions.

The number of WCDMA/HSPA subscriptions is expected to decline slightly during 2018. However, the technology is still estimated to account for around one-fifth of all subscriptions in 2023.

Smartphone subscriptions by technology

However, it is interesting to note that the number of mobile subscriptions exceeds the population in many countries, which is largely due to inactive subscriptions, multiple device ownership or optimization of subscriptions for different types of calls.

As a result, the number of subscribers is lower than the number of subscriptions. Today, there are around 5.3 billion subscribers globally compared to 7.9 billion subscriptions.

New mobile subscriptions Q1 2018 (million)

5G and LTE: A US and EU overview

North America and Western Europe have high shares of global mobile broadband subscriptions. Countries within these regions have developed economies, enabling a high adoption rate of information and communications technology.

North America currently has the highest share of LTE subscriptions, almost 80 percent.

The region is also anticipated to lead 5G uptake, with all major operators stating their intentions to deploy 5G early.

Fixed wireless services based on 5G are expected to be launched in the second half of 2018, and the first mobile 5G services based on 3GPP standards are expected in late 2018.

By the end of 2023, more than 48 percent of all mobile subscriptions in North America are forecast to be for 5G.

In Western Europe, LTE became the dominant access technology at the end of last year, accounting for close to 50 percent of all subscriptions.

Subscriptions for WCDMA/HSPA have declined in the region, but the technology still accounts for more than 40 percent of all mobile subscriptions.

The first 5G subscriptions are expected in 2019. By the end of 2023, 5G is forecast to account for 21 percent of all mobile subscriptions in the region.

One billion 5G devices by 2023

Ericsson points out that new cellular network technologies have a low initial penetration of compatible devices and 5G will be no different.

Penetration will accelerate over chipset and device generations, as declining costs and prices increase volumes sold.

5G is expected to empower use cases across industries. First 5G data-only devices are expected from the second half of 2018 and the first 3GPP smartphones supporting 5G are expected in early 2019.

The first module-based 5G devices, supporting ultra-low latency communications for industrial process monitoring and control, are expected during 2020.

By 2023, however, the company estimates that, worldwide, there will be 1 billion 5G devices for enhanced mobile broadband connectivity.

5G device availability (3GPP)

How 5G will transform the world with IoT

The number of cellular IoT connections is expected to reach 3.5 billion in 2023 – increasing with an annual growth rate of 30 percent.

The forecast for cellular IoT connections has almost doubled, due to ongoing large-scale deployments in China.

Of the 3.5 billion cellular IoT connections forecast for 2023, North East Asia is anticipated to account for 2.2 billion.

New massive cellular IoT technologies, such as NB-IoT and Cat-M1, are taking off and driving growth in the number of cellular IoT connections.

Mobile operators have commercially launched more than 60 cellular IoT networks worldwide using Cat-M1 and NB-IoT.