Ericsson Mobility Report: 5G Subscriptions Expected to Reach 1.5 Billion Globally by 2023

Ericsson Mobility Report forecasts global 5G surge, 1.5B subscriptions by 2023, MENA region leads growth.

According to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report released in June 2023, the number of 5G subscriptions worldwide is projected to skyrocket to 1.5 billion by the end of 2023. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, in particular, is set to witness an exceptional growth in 5G subscriptions, with a forecasted surge from 22 million subscriptions in 2022 to a remarkable 290 million subscriptions by 2028. This anticipated growth is attributed to an increasing number of countries granting licenses and spectrum to facilitate significant investments in 5G network infrastructure.

While 5G captures attention, communication service providers are not overlooking the importance of 4G networks. The report predicts a steady rise in 4G subscriptions, projected to grow by 4 percent annually from 730 million in 2022 to 880 million by 2028, ultimately constituting 60 percent of the total subscriptions in the MENA region at the end of the forecast period.

The driving force behind the emphasis on both 4G and 5G lies in the exploration of services that demand high bandwidth and low latency, coupled with the availability of a wide range of affordable devices. Consequently, 2G subscriptions are expected to witness a significant decline from 2022 to 2028, reducing to approximately 5 percent of the total subscriptions at the end of the period.

In the MENA region, this technology shift will lead to a surge in data traffic as more subscribers transition to 4G, and the momentum behind 5G coverage continues to grow. The report estimates that total data traffic will experience a 27 percent annual increase between 2022 and 2028, with monthly data usage per smartphone projected to reach 37 GB at the end of the forecast period. This surge in data consumption will be driven by the adoption of data-intensive services and the proliferation of various industrial use cases for 5G.

The Ericsson Mobility Report provides a range of insights into the growth of data, voice traffic and mobile subscriptions, including annual forecast data updates. In the June 2023 edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, we see exponential growth in the number of subscriptions in both the 4G and 5G technologies. Service providers are uniquely positioned to support the digital transformation of a wide range of industries with evolving cellular technologies, as they enable industries to become truly data driven, efficient and sustainable to further contribute to a better society.

Håkan Cervell, Vice President and Head of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Ericsson Middle East and Africa

We have witnessed great interest in upgrading networks to 4G and, even 5G in Sub Saharan Africa.

Hence, it comes as no surprise that the region is forecasted to have the highest growth in total mobile data traffic. The expansion of 4G and 5G networks will facilitate connectivity and innovation for Africans everywhere.”

Hossam Kandeel, Vice President and Head of Global Customer Unit MTN and Customer Unit MTN Africa, Ericsson Middle East and Africa

Despite facing challenging macroeconomic conditions, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are expected to invest significantly in network infrastructure. This growth is fueled by a large youthful population with a high demand for connectivity, as highlighted in the Ericsson Mobility Report. These investments will create new opportunities for service providers, particularly in advanced mobile data and value-added services such as mobile banking and payments.

The report also reveals that Sub-Saharan Africa is anticipated to witness the highest growth in total mobile data traffic globally, with an annual increase of 37 percent between 2022 and 2028. The rise in data traffic is primarily due to ongoing investments by service providers in 4G networks and the migration of customers from 2G and 3G to more advanced technologies. By 2028, the average data per active smartphone is predicted to stabilize at 19 GB per month.

Furthermore, the report highlights the global trend of increasing 5G subscriptions, expected to reach 1.5 billion by the end of 2023. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than ten countries have already launched commercial 5G networks, with additional deployments planned, raising the forecast of 5G subscriptions to 13 percent of the total subscriptions base in 2028.

While 4G will continue to dominate new subscriptions up to 2028, accounting for more than half of all mobile subscriptions at the end of the period, 2G subscriptions are projected to experience a continuous decline. Despite serving a significant number of rural subscribers with low-priced devices and service plans, 2G subscriptions are expected to comprise 29 percent of the total connections by the end of the forecast period in 2028.

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