The state of the race for the fifth generation of wireless (5G) subscriber adoption has tightened up significantly, as global wireless 5G connections for Q1 2021 reached 298 million, according to data from Omdia reported by 5G Americas.
5G subscriptions for 4Q20 were revised following improved clarity from one large country in the Asia-Pacific region, which resulted in a downward revision.
Chris Pearson, President of 5G Americas said, “By all metrics, the interest and uptake in 5G is progressing everywhere as deployments, connections, coverage and the number of devices continue to grow. Estimates are being adjusted based on new information, as 5G continues to build momentum through new applications and use cases for both businesses and consumers.”
Worldwide wireless 5G connections remain on pace in 2021
The world added 79 million 5G connections between Q4 2020 and Q1 2021, as wireless subscribers continued to adopt 5G at two and a half times the rate of subscriber growth as 4G LTE. With global pandemic impacts leveling out as vaccinations increase and work and commuting patterns normalize, 5G remains on pace in 2021 to nearly triple the number of connections it added in 2020, reaching 633 million globally by the end of the year.
Additionally, nine 5G networks went live globally in Q1 2021, bringing the global total up to 172 networks, according to data from TeleGeography. That number is expected to reach 273 by the end of 2021 and 313 by 2023. Availability of 5G devices also continues to grow rapidly, now at 511 commercially available 5G devices as of June 2021, according to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).
Connections by region
By region, data indicates North America had 28.6 million 5G connections and 502 million LTE connections by the end of Q1 2021, representing 43% quarter growth in 5G and 1% quarter growth in LTE. This represents an addition of 8.6 million 5G and 3 million LTE connections during the quarter.
Omdia senior analyst Kristin Paulin said, “Right now the US is driving 5G growth in North America. The major operators have blanketed the US with coverage and are now offering device incentives to further drive growth. On top of this, C-band deployments are set to further strengthen 5G offerings starting early next year.”
In its first year of commercial availability in Latin America and the Caribbean, 5G continues to grow with 1697 new 5G additions in Q1 2021. LTE remains the dominant wireless cellular technology with 20 million new LTE subscriptions in Q1 2021, representing four percent QoQ growth.
According to Jose Otero, VP of Caribbean and Latin America for 5G Americas, “Latin America’s mobile markets continue their subscriber migration towards enhanced mobile broadband networks as 4G continues to exhibit rapid growth in the region at the expense of 2G and 3G. This growth has been accompanied by government policies directed at increasing the footprint of 4G networks. Soon, it will contemplate fixed wireless broadband over 5G as a solution for the provision of high-speed connectivity to suburban and rural areas.”
Forward projections for 5G and 4G LTE remain healthy, with estimates of global 5G connections reaching 4.6 billion in 2026. Of that, 512 million is expected to come from North America and 277 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The number of networks using 4G and 5G as of June 2021
- 5G: 172
- 4G LTE: 687
- 5G: 10
- 4G LTE: 20
Latin America & Caribbean:
- 5G: 13
- LTE: 125