With North America and Asia in the lead, 5G commercial services will launch in 2020, and there will be 24 million 5G subscriptions worldwide at the end of 2021 for mobile and fixed broadband services. That's according to a report from IT research firm Ovum.
The inaugural "5G Subscription Forecasts" report predicts North America and Asia would 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. The Middle East and Africa would account for the remainder.
"North America and Asia will be the leaders, at least in the early years of 5G, because major operators there are planning early deployments of 5G," Michael Roberts, practice leader at Ovum, told eWEEK. "This includes Verizon in the U.S., NTT DoCoMo in Japan, KT and SK Telecom in Korea, and China Mobile in China."
While a number of operators have announced plans to launch what they describe as 5G services before 2020, these typically will not be based on networks and devices complying with 5G standards, and so were excluded from Ovum's forecasts.
Roberts said the rollout of 5G services initially will mean better mobile broadband services with faster speeds and lower latency, and more options for fixed broadband services in some markets.
"Over time 5G will support new use cases such as IoT and what the industry calls mission-critical applications, with some examples being driverless cars and remote surgery," Roberts said.
Ovum 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. The vast majority of 5G subscriptions will be concentrated in the United States, Japan, China and South Korea, where major operators have revealed aggressive timelines for launching 5G services.
The company's forecast was based on 5G adoption rates by market, based on historical adoption rates, operator 5G strategy and use cases. It also included 5G spectrum availability and characteristics, primary and secondary research on announced and planned launch dates for 5G services by operators worldwide, and assessment of early 5G use cases based on operator and vendor plans, market demand and 5G standardization.
"The huge growth in mobile data demand, devices and services is driving the need for more mobile broadband capacity, which is one of the drivers of 5G," Roberts said. "Similarly, 5G is being designed to support the expected massive growth in IoT, although 5G commercial services will not support IoT until after 2021."