MWC 2023: 5G connections to double as 30 countries to deploy

5G connections are expected to double over the next two years, fuelled by 5G network deployments in more than 30 countries in 2023 alone, according to GSMA Intelligence report.
Telia 5G business
5G Standalone networks will be launched in 15 countries in 2023.

5G connections — wireless — look to surpass 1.1 billion by the end of 2022, according to 5G Americas report earlier.

Consumer connections surpassed one billion at the end of 2022 and will increase to around 1.5 billion this year – before reaching two billion by the end 2025, GSMA Intelligence said today.

As of January 2023, there were 229 commercial 5G networks globally, GSMA Intelligence said.

5G Americas earlier said the number of 5G commercial networks globally is expected to reach 253 by the end of 2022 and 397 by the end of 2025 representing strong 5G network investment growth in many regions throughout the world.

GSMA earlier said 5G will overtake 4G in 2029 to become the dominant mobile technology, with 5G adoption at over 85 percent in the top 5G markets by 2030.

Global 5G connections will surpass five billion by the end of the decade, with the industry on track to hit 1.5 billion connections in 2023.

A recent forecast from Canalys indicates that 5G-enabled smartphones shipment will reach 739 million units and make up for 60 percent of smartphone shipments in 2023 from 632 million units with 53 percent market share. Emerging countries will achieve higher growth in 5G smartphone shipments due to the improving 5G infrastructure and affordability of 5G devices.

Growth will also come from key markets within APAC and LATAM, such as Brazil and India. Airtel and Jio are in the process of expanding their 5G presence in India, according to GSMA Intelligence.

GSMA Intelligence predicts there will be four 5G networks in India by the end of 2025, accounting for 145 million additional users. This means, both Vodafone Idea and BSNL will launch their 5G networks in India in two years.

Many of the 5G markets scheduled to launch networks in 2023 are in developing regions across Africa – including Ethiopia and Ghana – and Asia. 5G adoption in the sub-Saharan region sits below 1 percent but will reach over 4 percent by 2025 and 16 percent in 2030.

“Until now, 5G adoption has been driven by  mature markets and consumer use cases like enhanced mobile broadband, but that’s changing. We’re now entering a second wave for 5G that will see the technology engage a diverse set of new markets and audiences,” said Peter Jarich, Head of GSMA Intelligence.

As of January 2023, more than 90 fixed broadband service providers (the vast majority of which are mobile operators) had launched commercial 5G-based fixed wireless services across over 48 countries. This means around 40 percent of 5G commercial mobile launches worldwide currently include an FWA offering.

In the US, T-Mobile added over half a million 5G FWA customers in Q4 2021 and Q1 2022 combined. By 2025, T-Mobile expects to have eight million FWA subscribers. Verizon is targeting five million FWA subscribers by 20254. Jio aims connect 100 million homes across India to its 5G FWA network.

While the majority of 5G FWA deployments focus on the 3.5–3.8 GHz bands, several operators are using 5G mmWave spectrum as a capacity and performance booster to complement coverage provided by lower bands.

Only 7 percent of 5G launches have been in 5G mmWave spectrum so far but this looks set to change given 27 percent of spectrum allocations and 35 percent of trials are already using 5G mmWave bands. In 2023 alone, the industry will see 10 more countries assigned 5G mmWave spectrum for use – a significant increase from the 22 countries who have been assigned it to date. Spain received the first European 5G mmWave spectrum allocation this year. Telefonica launched its first commercial 5G mmWave network at MWC Barcelona 2023.

The enterprise market will be the main driver of 5G revenue growth over the next decade. Revenues from business customers already represent around 30 percent of total revenues on average for major operators. Edge computing and IoT technology presents further opportunities for 5G, with 12 percent of operators having already launched private wireless solutions – a figure that will grow with a wider range of expected IoT deployments in 2023.

Investment in 5G Advanced will improve speed, coverage, mobility and power efficiency – and support a new wave of business opportunities. GSMA’s Network Transformation survey showed half of operators expect to support 5G Advanced commercial networks within two years of its launch.