Regional 5G mobile subscriptions outlook from Ericsson

The latest Ericsson Mobility Report has revealed regional 5G mobile subscriptions outlook in coming years.
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Sub-Saharan Africa

In the first quarter of 2021, more than 20 percent of the global net additions were recorded in Africa, with Nigeria having the third-highest numbers globally of net adds. 4G accounted for around 15 percent of subscriptions at the end of 2020.

Over the forecast period mobile broadband subscriptions are predicted to increase, reaching 76 percent of mobile subscriptions.

While 5G and 4G subscriptions will continue to grow over the next 6 years, HSPA will remain the dominant technology with a share of over 40 percent in 2026.

Over the forecast period, discernible volumes of 5G subscriptions are expected from 2022, reaching 7 percent in 2026.

Middle East and North Africa

In the Middle East and North Africa region, around 32 percent of mobile subscriptions were for 4G at the end of 2020. The region is anticipated to evolve over the forecast period, and by 2026 about 80 percent of subscriptions are expected to be for mobile broadband, 4G being the dominant technology with more than 50 percent of subscriptions.

Commercial 5G deployments with service providers have taken place and 5G subscriptions exceeded 1 million at the end of 2020. Significant 5G volumes are expected in 2021 and the region is likely to reach around 150 million 5G subscriptions in 2026, representing 18 percent of total mobile subscriptions.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

The GCC countries, part of the Middle East and North Africa region, are among the most advanced ICT markets in the world – over 90 percent of mobile subscriptions were for mobile broadband at the end of 2020 and this is estimated to reach 95 percent in 2026. 4G is the dominant technology, accounting for about 80 percent of the subscriptions at the end of 2020.

However, with 5G adoption accelerating in the forecast period, the majority of mobile subscriptions are anticipated to be for 5G at over 62 million in 2026, representing about 73 percent of total mobile subscriptions. This will make the GCC the region with the second-highest 5G penetration at that time.

Latin America

In Latin America, 4G remains the dominant radio technology during the forecast period, accounting for 59 percent of subscriptions at the end of 2020 and a predicted 48 percent in 2026. A steady decline in WCDMA/HSPA is forecast as users migrate to 4G and 5G, falling from 30 to 11 percent. To date, Brazil and Colombia have launched commercial 5G services, and other countries such as Argentina, Chile and Mexico are investing in and deploying 5G. By the end of 2026, 5G is set to make up 34 percent of mobile subscriptions.


In the India region, 4G subscriptions are forecast to rise from 680 million in 2020 to 830 million in 2026, increasing at a CAGR of 3 percent. 4G remained the dominant technology in 2020, accounting for 61 percent of mobile subscriptions. The technology will continue to be dominant, representing 66 percent of mobile subscriptions in 2026, with 3G being phased out by that time.

5G will represent around 26 percent of mobile subscriptions in India at the end of 2026, estimated at about 330 million subscriptions. The number of smartphone subscriptions was 810 million in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7 percent, reaching over 1.2 billion by 2026. Smartphone subscriptions accounted for 72 percent of total mobile subscriptions in 2020 and are projected to constitute over 98 percent in 2026, driven by rapid smartphone adoption in the country.

South East Asia and Oceania

Mobile subscriptions in the region have now exceeded 1.1 billion, with Indonesia being among the top 5 countries globally when it comes to net additions. 5G subscriptions now sit just below the 2 million mark in the region but will grow strongly over the next few years with a forecast total of about 400 million by 2026.

Carrier aggregation trials have been gathering momentum with a world-first combination of 5G FDD 2.1GHz and 5G TDD 3.5GHz spectrum in Australia. Earlier in the year, Australia saw the launch of a capacity-enhancing 2.3GHz and 3.5GHz TDD dual band network, also using carrier aggregation techniques. In Singapore, several 5G standalone (SA) sites are being deployed in preparation for a launch that would complement current 5G non-standalone (NSA) commercial offerings in the country.

Central and Eastern Europe

In Central and Eastern Europe, 4G is the dominant technology and now accounts for 50 percent of all subscriptions. In 2026, 4G will remain the dominant technology and is expected to account for 65 percent of mobile subscriptions, while 5G subscriptions are forecast to make up 33 percent. During the forecast period, there will continue to be a significant decline in WCDMA/HSPA, from 36 percent to virtually zero, as users migrate to 4G and 5G.

To date, around 20 5G networks have been commercially launched across the region. Further spectrum auctions in the key frequency bands like 700MHz and 3.4–3.8GHz were planned for the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, some of which were delayed. This will have a short-term impact on 5G deployment in affected countries.

North East Asia

In North East Asia, service providers continue to invest in 5G deployments to further fuel 5G subscription growth. A current focus area for service providers is to improve nationwide coverage. Meanwhile, the rapid growth of 5G subscriptions, supported by an increased number of available 5G-device models, has had a positive impact on service providers’ financial performance. Major service providers in leading 5G markets, such as China and South Korea, have reported a positive impact of 5G subscribers on mobile service revenues and ARPU in 2020.

At the close of the forecast period, the region is anticipated to have more than 1.4 billion 5G subscriptions, equaling a 5G subscription penetration of 65 percent.

Western Europe

In Western Europe, 4G is the dominant access technology, accounting for 78 percent of all subscriptions. 4G is predicted to decline to 27 percent and WCDMA/HSPA to only 3 percent of subscriptions in 2026 as subscribers migrate to 5G. More than 60 service providers have launched 5G services across the region. Further spectrum auctions in the 700MHz and 3.4–3.8GHz bands were planned during 2020, but some were delayed, which will have a short-term impact on the deployment and coverage of 5G in the region. 5G subscription penetration is projected to reach 69 percent by the end of 2026.

North America

In North America, 5G commercialization is moving at a rapid pace. Service providers have launched commercial 5G services, with a focus on mobile broadband and fixed wireless access (FWA). The introduction of 5G smartphones supporting all three spectrum bands has already made 2021 an eventful year for early 5G adopters. By 2026, more than 360 million 5G subscriptions are anticipated in the region, accounting for 84 percent of mobile subscriptions.