Mobile network operators continued to bring 5G networks online despite the pandemic and economic downturn, even as new 5G subscriber growth tempered in some areas, according to 5G Americas, the wireless industry trade association and voice of 5G and LTE for the Americas. In Q2 2020, an additional 30 5G networks went live, bringing the total up to 114 5G commercial networks globally, a number which is expected to nearly double to 204 by the end of 2020, according to data from TeleGeography.
Chris Pearson, President, 5G Americas said, “The pace of new commercial 5G network launches has remained healthy through the challenging quarter, as mobile network operators continue to build 5G networks for the long-term.”
5G continues to drive an important area of growth for the wireless cellular industry, as overall mobile global network data traffic, including fixed wireless access, grew 53 percent over the past year, according to the latest Ericsson Mobility September 2020 Report. According to data from Omdia, there are now almost 138 million 5G connections globally as of Q2 2020, which represents 116% growth over Q1 2020. In addition, there are now 190 commercial 5G device models available globally as of the end of August, according to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).
Looking ahead, Omdia projects 5G connections will reach 236 million globally by the end of 2020, of which North America will account for 10 million connections. According to Kristin Paulin, Senior Analyst at Omdia, “We expect growth to pick up in the second half of the year, following the easing of lockdowns as well as continued 5G network expansion and the availability of more 5G devices.”
Said Pearson, “Different regions around the world are temporarily experiencing significantly different rates of 5G subscriber growth, due to the pandemic and economic challenges it has caused. North American growth continues strong, while the Caribbean and Latin American markets are just getting started.”
By the end of Q2 2020, North America had 2.3 million 5G connections and 497 million LTE connections. For the region, this amounts to 69% quarterly growth in 5G, a gain of close to 1 million 5G connections over the quarter. It also represents 1% growth in LTE, a gain of 4.6 million LTE connections over the quarter.
According to Jose Otero, Vice President of Caribbean and Latin America for 5G Americas, "5G is breaking many records in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is the fastest mobile technology to arrive in the region and the first one included as part of many governments' national development plans, including Brazil, Colombia, and Chile.”
For the quarter, Latin America and the Caribbean saw 3,685 5G subscriptions, representing 25% sequential quarterly growth, and 378 million LTE subscriptions (2% QoQ growth), respectively. By the end of 2020, Latin America and the Caribbean will account for an additional 189 thousand 5G connections, based on Omdia’s projections.
Otero added, “Uruguay led the way by being the third country in the world with a 5G network, and since then, six other countries in the region started offering services. We expect the announcement of more commercial operations in the next 12 months with 5G representing 23% of mobile lines in the region by 2025, according to Omdia.”
Aside from 5G, overall global 4G LTE connections are expected to continue growing internationally through 2022. They are expected to reach 5.7 billion by the end of 2020, of which 506 million will come from North America and 406 million will come from Latin America and the Caribbean.
Overall, the following number of networks using 4G and 5G wireless technologies have been deployed globally and in the Americas as of September 16, 2020, according to TeleGeography:
- 5G: 114
- LTE Advanced: 335
- LTE: 682
- 5G: 7
- LTE Advanced: 12
- LTE: 23
Latin America & Caribbean:
- 5G: 10
- LTE Advanced: 49
- LTE: 125
*Source: TeleGeography and 5G Americas