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Global 5G subscriptions to hit 660 million this year – Ericsson

Swedish kit vendor Ericsson has published its latest Mobility Report, which has raised its estimate for 2021 5G subscriptions to two thirds of a billion worldwide.

Ericsson has been doing this for a decade now, so on top of noting the current state of play when it comes to the global mobile market, and the usual forecasts, it has also taken a look at how the market has progressed over the last ten years.

The headline long-term forecast is that 5G will account for almost half (49%) of all mobile subscriptions by 2027. This means, of course, that 5G will overtake 4G at some time before that, but Ericsson only provided the chart below and no raw data so we’re left to make an educated guess about when that inflection point will take place. We’d put our money on some time in late 2025 which seems broadly in line with how 4G played out, depending on how you measure it.

You can see why Ericsson might be inclined to hold its cards close to its chest on this, given the perils of mobile industry forecasting. As you can see from the table below, Ericsson has tended to over-estimate total mobile subscriptions but under-estimate the uptake of newer technologies, especially in their early stages.

“Mobile communication has had an incredible impact on society and business over the last ten years,” said Fredrik Jejdling, Head of Networks at Ericsson. “When we look ahead to 2027, mobile networks will be more integral than ever to how we interact, live and work. Our latest Ericsson Mobility Report shows that the pace of change is accelerating, with technology playing a crucial role.”

Ericsson generally uses this report to big-up the mobile industry, as well it might since that where it derives most of its business. There’s the usual talk about mobile data traffic going through the roof due to video and a look at fixed wireless access, which Ericsson reckons will provide broadband for 800 million people by 2027. Since there is still little consumer incentive to upgrade to 5G, it seems fair to assume its growth has and will continue to be a supply-side phenomenon.

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