Mobile data ‘booming’ as 5G picks up faster than expected, says Ericsson

11 June 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Mobile data traffic is growing fast in every region of the world, from 23% a year to 42% a year, according to the latest mobility report from Ericsson.

The report shows there is no sign that data growth is letting up – and is likely to continue, as new 5G technology is taken up rapidly.

Fredrik Jejdling, Ericsson’s executive vice president and head of networks, said: “5G is definitely taking off and at a rapid pace. This reflects the service providers’ and consumers’ enthusiasm for the technology.”

Enthusiasm for mobile data and 5G will put more pressure on infrastructure providers and wholesale carriers.

Jejdling said: “The full benefits of 5G can only be reaped with the establishment of a solid ecosystem in which technology, regulatory, security, and industry partners all have a part to play.”

One of the surprising findings of the report is that data growth is high right across the world, topped by sub-Saharan Africa at 41% a year and the Middle East and North Africa at 42%.

North America is consuming 2.5 exabytes (EB) a month in 2018 but will consume 14EB a month in 2024, says Ericsson (an exabyte is a billion gigabytes).

China will use even more data in 2024 – 30EB a month, according to the survey.

Though growing fast, Africa and the Middle East will still consume data at more modest levels in five years’ time – a total of 19EB a month, says Ericsson. Europe will consume a total of 21EB a month, while Latin America will be just under 9EB.

Ericsson notes that “rapid early momentum and enthusiasm for 5G” has led it “to forecast an extra 400 million enhanced mobile broadband subscriptions globally by the end of 2024” (see chart).

The June 2019 edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report (PDF here) forecasts 1.9 billion 5G subscriptions, 27% higher than it predicted in November 2018.

The report says 5G coverage is forecast to reach 45% of the world’s population by the end of 2024. This could surge to 65%, as spectrum sharing technology enables 5G deployments on LTE frequency bands. The company notes that “service providers in some markets are also setting more ambitious targets for population coverage of up to 90% within the first year”. It adds: “As 5G devices increasingly become available and more 5G networks go live, over 10 million 5G subscriptions are projected worldwide by the end of 2019.”

By 2024, 63% of all mobile subscriptions in North America will be for 5G. In north-east Asia – including China – 47% of subscriptions will be 5G. For Europe it will be a more modest 40%.