As 5G networks finish out their fourth year of commercial operation, the global 5G landscape continues to see “remarkable” progress across many key markets, with North American 5G growth in particular showing no signs of slowing down, a study from mobile industry trade association 5G Americas and data from Omdia have shown.
The study found that as of the end of the third quarter of 2023, the world added 537 million 5G connections, bringing global totals to 1.6 billion, which represents an increase of 71% over the past year. This growth trajectory, said 5G Americas, suggested an optimistic outlook for the future of 5G adoption.
Indeed, as an indication of the strength of the growth, the study showed that globally, as of 14 December 2023, the number of deployed 5G networks now rival 4G LTE deployments. Currently, there are 296 commercial 5G networks worldwide – 17 in North America and 32 in Latin America and the Caribbean – and this number is anticipated to grow to 438 by 2025, reflecting significant investments in 5G infrastructure worldwide. By contrast, it said there are 712 global 4G LTE network deployments, with 18 in North America and 133 in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Overall, North America continues to be a leading region in 5G deployment, with 176 million connections as of Q3 2023. This represents the addition of 22 million new connections in the past quarter, or 14% quarter-on-quarter. This translates to a 26% market share and 46% penetration rate, highlighting the region’s significant commitment to advancing 5G technology. 5G Americas further observed that in the region, some national operators have already also deployed or are in the process of deploying 5G Standalone networks.
Even though the region was demonstrating encouraging progress, Latin America and the Caribbean showed 5G adoption was found to be still in its early stages. Q3 2023 saw an increase of seven million LTE connections, bringing the total to 572 million. While 4G remains dominant, 5G connections are expected to quadruple in 2023, reaching 46 million. Looking further ahead, forecasts predict the region will reach 492 million 5G connections by 2028, highlighting the potential for significant growth.
“The global 5G landscape shows positive momentum as innovation and collaboration continue to be the mainstays for long-term progress,” said Chris Pearson, president of 5G Americas. “With the World Radio Conference wrapping up, it is important that international cooperation and efforts continue to ensure that spectrum and technology standards continue to propel this growth.”
Jose Otero, vice-president for Latin America and the Caribbean at 5G Americas, added: “4G LTE and 5G continue to be important mobile communications technologies for Latin America. Upcoming spectrum auctions and more mass-market access to 5G devices in 2024 will create more robust opportunities for 5G success in the region.”
Omdia principal analyst Kristin Paulin said: “Looking ahead, Omdia forecasts that the global 5G connection base will likely reach 1.8 billion by the end of 2023 and 7.9 billion by 2028, as 5G-Advanced network improvements are implemented and work towards 6G is completed. While this represents a significant expansion, it is important to note that this growth may not be linear.
“Factors such as infrastructure development, spectrum availability, device availability and consumer demand will continue to influence the pace of adoption as different regions and segments continue to adopt the technology. The current 5G landscape presents a cautiously optimistic picture. By addressing new opportunities through innovation and cooperation, the industry can ensure that 5G reaches its full potential and unlocks its transformative impact on our lives.”