5G Subscriptions to Exceed 580M by the End of 2021 – Africa and Middle East On the Rise

Ericsson released its mobility report projection of mobile subscriptions and the growing number of service providers offering fixed wireless access.

Ericsson projects that 5G mobile subscriptions will exceed 580 million by the end of 2021, driven by an estimated one million new 5G mobile subscriptions every day.

The forecast, which features in the twentieth edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, enhances the expectation that 5G will become the fastest adopted mobile generation. About 3.5 billion 5G subscriptions and 60 percent 5G population coverage are forecast by the end of 2026.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, mobile subscriptions will continue to grow over the forecast period as mobile penetration is less than the global average. In the first quarter of 2021, more than 20 percent of the global net additions were recorded in Africa, with Nigeria having the third-highest numbers
globally of net adds. 4G accounted for around 15 percent of subscriptions at the end of 2020. Over the forecast period, mobile broadband subscriptions are predicted to increase, reaching 76 percent of mobile subscriptions. While 5G and 4G subscriptions will continue to grow over the next 6 years, HSPA will remain the dominant technology with a share of over 40 percent in 2026. Driving factors behind the growth of mobile broadband subscriptions include a young, growing population with increasing digital skills and more affordable smartphones. Over the forecast period, discernible volumes of 5G subscriptions are expected from 2022, reaching 7 percent in 2026.

In the Middle East and North Africa region, around 32 percent of mobile subscriptions were for 4G at the end of 2020. The region is anticipated to evolve over the forecast period, and by 2026 about 80 percent of subscriptions are expected to be for mobile broadband, 4G being the dominant technology with more than 50 percent of subscriptions. Commercial 5G deployments with leading service providers have taken place and 5G subscriptions exceeded 1 million at the end of 2020. Significant 5G volumes are expected in 2021 and the region is likely to reach around 150 million 5G subscriptions in 2026, representing 18 percent of total mobile subscriptions.

The GCC countries, part of the Middle East and North Africa region, are among the most advanced ICT markets in the world – over 90 percent of mobile subscriptions were for mobile broadband at the end of 2020 and this is estimated to reach 95 percent in 2026. 4G is the dominant technology, accounting for about 80 percent of the subscriptions at the end of 2020. However, with 5G adoption accelerating in the forecast period, the majority of mobile subscriptions are anticipated to be for 5G at over 62 million in 2026, representing about 73 percent of total mobile subscriptions. This will make the GCC the region with the second-highest 5G penetration at that time.

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