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China's government and service providers have dramatically accelerated 5G this year, putting the country on track to overtake the US and dominate the global 5G market by subscriptions from 2019 to 2024, according to Ovum's latest 5G global subscription forecasts.

China to lead global 5G market as US led 4G

China's service providers initially planned to launch 5G in 2020 but worked with the government to accelerate the timeline, in a bid to lead the global 5G industry, as the US led the global 4G industry. China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) issued 5G licenses to the three operators in June, and all three are investing heavily in launching 5G commercial services this year with significant coverage.

In March, Ovum forecast that the US would be the dominant 5G market by subscriptions at the end of 2019, with 47% of global 5G subscriptions. However, Ovum's latest forecast finds that China's acceleration of 5G means it will now be the dominant 5G market globally at end-2019, with 48% of global 5G subscriptions, followed by South Korea, with 28%, the UK, with 10%, and the US, with 5%. China will be the top country by 5G subscriptions through end-2024, at which point it is forecast to account for 35% of global 5G subscriptions.

Ovum is now forecasting faster take-up of 5G subscriptions in the US than in our previous forecast, but take-up is accelerating much faster in other markets, particularly China, leaving the US lagging in the race to lead the global 5G market.

Of course, the 5G market is much more than simply subscriptions, but the US did use an early lead in 4G deployments and subscriptions to lead the global 4G market, which US service providers, industry associations, and regulators have argued brought significant benefits to the US economy, in areas including wealth and job creation.

Given the acceleration of 5G in China, Europe, and other parts of the world, Ovum is now forecasting that 5G mobile subscriptions will jump from 13 million at the end of 2019 to top 1 billion in 2023 and reach 1.9 billion by the end of 2024. 

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