In its latest Mobility report, equipment vendor Ericsson predicts that there will be 1.5 billion 5G subscribers worldwide by the end of 2024. Those 5G subscribers will make up about 17 percent of all mobile subscriptions globally and 55 percent of subscriptions in North America in 2024.
The Ericsson report said that the key reasons that 5G is expected to grow quickly in North America are that mobile data traffic is expected to increase more than five times between now and 2024, and 5G will increase network capacity while lowering the cost per byte delivered.
According to Patrik Cerwall, head of strategic marketing at Ericsson, the company believes that 5G coverage will expand faster than 4G because a lot of 5G will be concentrated in urban areas where more than 50 percent of the population resides. “Building out 5G coverage in cities will cover a lot of population,” Cerwall said.
He also noted that China was slow to deploy 4G, but it is being very aggressive with 5G. And China has a lot of its population residing in dense urban cities and will likely be able to ramp up to cover those cities quickly.
Another reason for 5G’s quick ramp up is because many operators are going to deploy the technology across multiple spectrum bands. And in some bands the switch from 4G LTE to 5G will be fast because of new innovations. For example, some U.S. operators have deployed 4G-capable gear that can be upgraded to 5G by just using software.
IoT Set to Surge
Interestingly, Ericsson’s Mobility report also predicts a strong increase in cellular internet of things (IoT) connections. The report expects cellular IoT connections to top 4.1 billion in 2024, an annual growth rate of 27 percent.
Ericsson said that the uptick is because cellular IoT networks such as narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE-M are taking off and driving that growth. So far, service providers have announced plans for 85 cellular IoT networks using either LTE-M or NB-IoT technology. In the U.S. T-Mobile has launched a nationwide NB-IoT network and Verizon has said it will launch an NB-IoT network this year. The operator already has a nationwide LTE-M network. AT&T also has an LTE-M network and has said it will launch an NB-IoT network next year. Dish Network also has said it is building an NB-IoT network that it will launch in 2019. And Sprint is building an LTE-M network.