5G to reach 1.5 billion subscriptions by 2024

Are we ready for the rapid adoption of 5G technology?
30 November 2018

Illustration shows a 5G view on a building wall. Source: AFP

We are on the cusp of rapid 5G adoption. According to the latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, 5G is expected to reach more than 40 percent of the global population, with 1.5 billion subscriptions for enhanced mobile broadband tipped for 2024.

The Swedish telco firm expects North America and North East Asia to lead this surge, with 5G subscriptions predicted to hit 55 percent and 43 percent respectively. In Western Europe, meanwhile, just shy of a third of mobile subscriptions are expected to be on the 5G spectrum too.

Key drivers for 5G deployment include network capacity, lower cost per gigabyte and new use case requirements; the report also indicates that the uptake of NB-IoT and Cat-M1 technologies is a huge factor in the growth of cellular Internet of Things (IoT) connections globally.

NE Asia is the trailblazer in terms of cellular IoT connection, accounting for 2.7 billion of the 4.1 billion expected for deployment over the next five years.

China is a key engine here, expected to see a 79 percent increase in mobile data traffic alone. The country currently has 7.3 gigabytes of data traffic per smartphone at 7.3 gigabytes a month, which is only behind 8.6 gigabytes per month in North America.

But between 2018 and 2024, total mobile data traffic is expected to increase by a factor of five, with 5G networks possibly handling 25 percent of mobile traffic.

According to Ericsson’s Executive Vice President and Head of Business Area Networks, Fredrik Jejdling, cellular IoT will continue to grow strongly leveraging off the growing availability and adoption of 5G, fundamentally impacting all industries across the board.

Ethical questions

The rising use of IoT as a result of 5G’s proliferation— namely the use of always-on, connected sensors— is likely to lead to its own set of social, legal and ethical discussions, as often tends to be the case when disruptive technology transitions into a phase of greater adoption.

According to Nick Jones, Research Vice President at Gartner, CIOs considering deploying IoT technology should think about educating themselves and staff around ethical use of the technology. That includes the creation of ethics councils ready to deal with issues potentially arising from the impact of new user experiences and “socially aware” experiences.

It’s a whole new ballgame for most companies out there, and the future certainly looks exciting for IoT as it becomes more pervasive in our daily lives. IoT is going to play a huge role in both consumer and business applications for years to come, and if Ericsson’s report is to be taken seriously, we are just getting started.