After three full years of growth, global wireless 5G adoption has reached the rapid acceleration phase, having exceeded a half-billion connections by the end of 2021 and forecast to reach 1.3 billion by the end of this year according to data from Omdia, said 5G Americas, the wireless industry trade association and voice of 5G and LTE for the Americas.
Chris Pearson, president of 5G Americas said, “We are now out of the opening stages of this generation of wireless cellular technology, as 5G is rapidly getting into the hands of consumers and businesses, who are finding innovative new ways to use mobile connectivity.”
According to the most recent data from Omdia, the world added 303 million 5G connections year over year, representing a 139 percent increase from 218 million to 521 million, and sequentially 19 percent growth quarter over quarter from 437 million in Q3 2021 to 521 million in Q4 2021. According to Omdia’s forecast, 5G is expected to double to 1.3 billion connections in 2022, nearly double again in 2023 to 2 billion connections, and reach 4.8 billion by the end of 2026. Of that, 516 million is expected to come from North America and 301 million from Latin America and the Caribbean.
By region, North America had a total of 72 million 5G connections by the end of 2021, which is an addition of 54 million 5G connections for the year, a gain of 292 percent year over year. Additionally, the region had 514 million LTE connections by the end 2021, which represents near full market maturity.
Omdia’s Principal Analyst Kristin Paulin said, “During 2021 5G coverage really expanded, making 5G an option for a lot more people. The major operators in the U.S. have more than 70 percent coverage. In Canada, 5G really expanded for the three major operators during 2021, with each ending the year with 70 percent coverage. This is compared to between 24 percent and 45 percent coverage, depending on the operator, at the same time last year.”
Although 301 million 5G connections are expected for Latin America in the Caribbean by 2026, 4G LTE remains the dominant wireless cellular technology in the region today with 495 million connections. That represents 17 percent annual growth with the addition of 72.6 million new LTE subscriptions year over year. Omdia expects 4G LTE growth will remain strong in Latin America and the Caribbean through 2022 with the addition of 43.2 million new 4G LTE connections, as 5G adoption begins to overtake 4G LTE.
According to Jose Otero, vice president of Caribbean and Latin America for 5G Americas, “5G deployments continue to make progress in Latin America as new spectrum is allocated by regulators. The new generation of mobile communications offers many technological features that will be welcomed by citizens of the region as 5G coverage increases. Overall, 4G LTE is providing excellent mobile broadband during the difficult time of the pandemic that has emphasized the importance of reliable communications services.”
Overall, the number of 5G commercial networks has reached 216, according to data from TeleGeography and 5G Americas. That number is expected to reach 330 by the end of 2022 and 352 by the end of 2024, representing strong 5G network investment growth in many regions throughout the world. The number of 5G and 4G LTE network deployments are summarized below:
- Global: 216
- North America: 12
- Caribbean and Latin America: 22
- Global: 698
- North America: 19
- Caribbean and Latin America: 127
Subscriber and forecast data is provided by Omdia and deployment data by TeleGeography (GlobalComm).