The ongoing evolution of mobile network infrastructure to fifth-generation (5G) technologies is already in the planning stages within much of the developed world, as mobile internet traffic fuels the demand for more data bandwidth. Meanwhile, 4G investment has peaked in several key markets.
North America and Asia will each account for more than 40 percent of global 5G subscriptions at the end of 2021, followed by Europe with more than 10 percent of subscriptions, with the Middle East and Africa accounting for the remainder.
According to the findings from their latest global market study, Ovum now estimates that 5G services will be available in more than 20 markets worldwide by the end of 2021, with services in all four major world regions.
However, the vast majority of 5G subscriptions will be concentrated in the U.S. market, Japan, China, and South Korea, where major mobile network operators have revealed aggressive timelines for launching 5G services.
5G Wireless Network Market Development
"The main use case for 5G through 2021 will be enhanced mobile broadband services, although fixed broadband services will also be supported, especially in the U.S. market," said Mike Roberts, practice leader at Ovum.
Over time 5G will support a host of use cases -- including Internet of Things (IoT) and mission-critical communications -- but Ovum doesn't believe that those use cases will be supported by standardized 5G services through 2021.
A number of mobile network operators have announced plans to launch what they describe as 5G services before 2020, but these will not typically be based on networks and devices complying with 5G standards, and so are excluded from the Ovum forecast.
Global Outlook for 5G Network Applications
Ovum defines a 5G subscription as an active connection to a 5G network via a 5G device. 5G is further defined as a system based on and complying with 3GPP 5G standards, beginning with parts of 3GPP Release 15, which is scheduled to be finalized in 2018.
"5G is at an early stage and there is a high degree of uncertainty around 5G deployment and adoption, including significant upside and downside risks," Roberts added. "Ovum’s analysts provide a clear view on the impacts this technology will have on the market, and will be updating our 5G forecasts every six months as part of our broader forecasting of the telecoms, media, IT, and related markets."
One of the most disruptive applications of new technologies in the U.S. market will be the displacement of residential wireline services. As an example, Verizon Wireless is already offering AT&T wireline customers a competitive home telephone service for $20 per month. Customers can use their existing wired or cordless home telephones and in-home wiring to connect to the Verizon Wireless service.