5G subscriptions up to 24 million by 2021 – Ovum

Analyst firm Ovum has released its inaugural 5G Subscription Forecasts this week which estimates there will be 24 million 5G subscriptions worldwide at the end of 2021.

The team at Ovum believe 5G commercial services will be a normalized aspect of the telco landscape by 2020, though this will be dominated by those in North America and Asia, who will account for as much as 80% of global 5G subscriptions by 2021. Europe would only take 10% of the pie, with the Middle-East and Africa splitting the remaining 10%.

While 5G could be considered as an advertising buzzword within the telco industry on the whole, the need for speed has been driven primarily by the advancements in user device capabilities. Claims to be the first vendor to have achieved the 5G status are not uncommon, though Nokia was the latest to make such a statement, in claiming its 5G network stack, which combines radio access technology with a cloud-based packet core, running on top of an AirFrame data centre platform, is the foundation of a commercial 5G architecture. This in itself is a bold claim as 5G standards are yet to be fully ratified.

“The main use case for 5G through 2021will be enhanced mobile broadband services, although fixed broadband services will also be supported, especially in the US,” said Mike Roberts, Ovum Practice Leader for carrier strategy and technology. “Over time 5G will support a host of use cases including Internet of Things and mission-critical communications, but Ovum does not believe those use cases will be supported by standardized 5G services through 2021.”

While announcements claiming organizations are 5G ready, a number of these have been excluded from the research. Numerous operators have claimed they will be launching 5G prior to the 2020 date stated in the research though these are services which will generally be deployed on networks and devices which don’t complying with 5G standards. These examples are seemingly nothing more than advertising ploys playing on the excitement of 5G. Ovum defines a 5G subscription as an active connection to a 5G network via a 5G device. 5G is further defined as a system based on and complying with 3GPP 5G standards.

In the UK, Ofcom has stated 5G services could be commercially available by 2020, though this claim has not been backed up by the team at Ovum. While it has not directly commented on the state of play in the UK, Ovum believe the majority of subscribers will be located in the US, Japan, China, and South Korea, countries where the operators have set more aggressive deadlines for the introduction of 5G services.

One area which has not been cleared up is the future spectrum requirements of 5G. Use cases for the high speed networks have already been outlined, including varied cases such as scientific research to financial trading and weather monitoring, though how the supply of spectrum will be split for immediate and future needs is still unknown.

“5G must deliver a further step change in the capacity of wireless networks, over and above that currently being delivered by 4G,” Steve Unger, Group Director at Ofcom on the website. “No network has infinite capacity, but we need to move closer to the ideal of there always being sufficient capacity to meet consumers’ needs”

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