Europe lags behind US and Asia in 5G adoption

06 April 2018 | Natalie Bannerman

The US and Asia are further ahead in its readiness for 5G than Europe, according to new figures from CCS Insights.

According to the global analyst company the US and Asia are on track for commercial deployment of 5G by 2019, the US may even be ready by as soon as late 2018, albeit on a limited scale.

"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,” said Kester Mann, principal analyst covering operators at CCS Insight. “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".

This change in CCS Insight’s near-term forecast has been driven by the progress made by the industry over the last six months. This progress has been accelerated by agreements on standards, trials, deployment of chipsets and infrastructure, and commitments made by operators to the technology. In particular the approval of the non-standalone specifications for 5G that took place in December 2017, encouraged a number of US operators to operators to target the aforementioned commercial deployment of 5G in 2019. 

In addition to this, CCS Insights predicts that total global 5G connections in 2020 will reach 60 million, increasing by almost 50% compared to its October 2017 publication. A figure that is forecast to increase to 280 million connections by 2021 indicating a 25% improvement. In the years to follow CCS Insight expects the growth to more moderate, it still expects the 1 billion mark to be reached in mid-2023, and its projection for 2025 has increased to 2.7 billion connections.

CCS Insights 5G Forecast 680 width

Further predictions include that once the early launches in South Korea, Japan and the US have taken place, China will take the lead in 5G. In China CCS Insights say that it will hit 100 million connections in 2021 before passing 1 billion in 2025. Even though most other markets will have launched commercial 5G services by 2025 China will still account for roughly four in ten global 5G connections.

In Western Europe, the region is expected to hit 100 million in early 2023. Despite the fact that some operators like Telia and Telecom Italia are showing a lot of enthusiasm for 5G, the region is still behind many of the other leading markets. Factors such as market fragmentation, lack of scale, increasing regulation and the preference of operators to focus on 4G networks are the main reasons for this lag.

"We see the first 5G smartphones emerging in 2019, but these will be relatively few in number. The real ramp-up will come in 2021, when over 350 million 5G handsets will be sold worldwide," added Marina Koytcheva, VP of forecasting at CCS Insights.

Other findings from CCS Insight show that autonomous driving and remote healthcare will be "killer" applications for new 5G networks, but the company predicts that adoption will be mostly driven by the need for higher speeds and bandwidth to support video on mobile devices. Overall by 2025 mobile broadband will still represent 98% of all 5G connections meaning that the adoption of 5G will be closely linked to availability of mobile handsets.