5G services will launch in 2020 and will have 25 million subscriptions worldwide by the end of 2021, primarily for fixed and mobile broadband services, according to Ovum's latest 5G subscription forecasts.
5G will be available in every major region by 2021
5G will launch in 2020 and will be available in every major region worldwide in 2021, with Ovum forecasting that more than 50 operators will be offering 5G services in close to 30 countries by the end of 2021.
However, the majority of 5G subscriptions will be concentrated in a handful of leading 5G markets, including the US, China, Japan, and South Korea. The US will be the largest 5G market in 2021, with more than 10 million 5G subscriptions, followed by China, Japan, and South Korea. Those top four 5G markets will account for more than 80% of the world's 5G subscriptions in 2021.
Major operators such as Verizon, SKT, and Telia have announced plans to launch pre-standard 5G services as early as 2018, with plans to transition to standardized services once the 5G standard is finalized. Early launches of pre-standardized 5G services could help these operators establish a lead in 5G, but could also create challenges around upgrading pre-standard equipment and services to the 5G standard. Ovum's 5G subscription forecasts only include subscriptions to standardized 5G services.
Ovum forecasts that US-based Verizon will be the largest 5G operator by subscriptions in 2021, followed by its rival AT&T, NTT DoCoMo in Japan, and China Mobile. Driven by the early major 5G investments of leading operators, North America and Asia will each account for close to 45% of global 5G subscriptions at the end of 2021, followed by Europe with more than 10% of subscriptions, with the Middle East and Africa accounting for the remainder.
Ovum produces 5G subscription forecasts every six months, as part of its broader forecasting of the key segments across the telecoms and media markets. In mid-2016, Ovum published its first 5G subscription forecasts, which predicted 24 million 5G subscriptions worldwide by end-2021. Ovum's new 5G forecasts are a 4% upward revision to 25 million 5G subscriptions worldwide by end-2021 based on additional operators planning to launch 5G services in the forecast period.
The main use case for 5G through 2021 will be enhanced mobile broadband services, although fixed broadband services will also be supported, especially in the US. Over time, 5G will support a host of use cases, including the Internet of Things and mission-critical communications, but Ovum does not believe those use cases will be supported by standardized 5G services through 2021.
A number of operators have announced plans to launch what they describe as 5G services before 2020, but these will not typically be based on networks and devices complying with 5G standards, and so are excluded from Ovum's forecasts.
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, beginning with parts of 3GPP Release 15, which is scheduled to be finalized in 2018.
5G Service Provider Tracker: 4Q16, TE0014-000434 (January 2017)
5G: Technology Perspective for the Next Generation of Mobility, TE0006-001295 (November 2016)
Mike Roberts, Research Director, Markets