CCS Insight has raised its forecast for 5G rollouts after strong industry momentum in the last six months – but says that Europe continues to trail the early adoption of the US and Asia.
In 2021, CCS Insight expects there to be 280 million global 5G connections, up 25% on its earlier forecast.
The 1 billion 5G connections-mark is expected to be reached in mid-2023, while the projection for 2025 now stands at 2.7 billion connections.
The revised figures come after the telecom industry standards body, 3GPP, ratified specifications for 5G in December, leading to a number of operators in the US and Asia target commercial deployment in 2019.
CCS Insight predicts that initial commercial 5G services could appear – on a limited scale – as soon as late 2018 in the US.
However, it claims that China will quickly take the lead after early deployments in developed markets like South Korea, Japan and the US.
The new stats predict that China will reach 100 million 5G connections in 2021, before passing 1 billion in 2025. By then, China is expected to account for 40% of global 5G connections.
In Western Europe, 5G connections are expected to pass 100 million connections in early 2023, with CCS claiming that the region “appears further adrift of the leading markets than ever before”.
The report said that while some European operators seem to be showing more appetite for 5G than others, Western Europe “continues to be hindered” by market fragmentation, lack of scale, increasing regulation and a focus on 4G networks.
“We see the first 5G smartphones emerging in 2019, but these will be relatively few in number,” said Marina Koytcheva, CCS Insights’ vice-president of forecasting. “The real ramp-up will come in 2021, when over 350 million 5G handsets will be sold worldwide.”
CCS Insight principal analyst, Kester Mann, added: “The industry might be struggling to establish the business models for investment in 5G, but this isn’t stopping leading operators battling for bragging rights to launch the first networks.
“Competitive forces and the need for capacity are the leading drivers of early deployment, although we caution this could set unrealistic expectations for initial network capability.”
The news comes in the same week that the UK’s four main mobile operators – EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone – each successfully bid for UK spectrum earmarked for 5G. The auction, which also included some 4G bandwidth, raised a total £1.356 billion (€1.55 billion).