4G subscriptions will begin to decline from 2024 onwards and it will dominate a majority share of all mobile connections until 2027, raising concerns about 5G.
5G subscriptions increased by 446 million in 2022 versus 592 million for 4G, thirteen years after 4G’s initial launch.
The latest Omdia research has found that 31 percent of mobile operators offered 5G in 2022. This is expected to rise to 59 percent by the end of 2023 with 4G expected to dominate for many years.
Omdia forecasts 5G will account for 5.9 billion subscriptions in 2027 equivalent to a population penetration of 70.9 percent.
A report from industry association 5G Americas indicated that there are 255 commercial 5G networks vs 700 4G networks as on 15 January, 2023.
The number of 5G networks vs 4G networks available is the following: 16 vs 162 in Africa, 57 vs 139 in Asia, 108 vs 167 in Europe, 28 vs 129 in Latin America, 23 vs 47 in the Middle East, 9 vs 39 in Oceania and 14 vs 17 in the United States and Canada.
Multiple factors have slowed down the transition to 5G such as lower handset sales driven by cost-of-living crisis and inflation, poor network coverage, low performance gain perception, and lack of 5G specific applications.
An increasing portion of mobile connections – approximately 30 percent – are not handsets and will be slower to convert to 5G (e.g., IoT, connected tablets/laptops, wearables).
Garinder Shankrowalia, Omdia Senior Market Forecaster, said: “5G subscription reporting in 2022 has led us to reduce our 2023 forecast by 7.2 percent -approximately 150 million subscriptions. We anticipate the industry will regain this loss from 2025, once global market conditions are improved.”
Omdia Research Director Ronan de Renesse said: “Operators are starting to move capital from next generation network deployment to 3G decommission projects and digital transformation. Key stakeholders should remain realistic about the prospects for 5G and re-evaluate the business case before moving on to the next step.”