The world is on the brink of a technological revolution with the rapid deployment of 5G networks. As the fifth generation of wireless technology, 5G promises to revolutionize industries, enhance connectivity, and drive economic growth.
According to a report by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), global 5G adoption will reach 17% by 2023, and by 2030, it is expected to contribute a staggering $1 trillion to the global economy.
The transition to 5G networks represents a significant leap forward in terms of speed, capacity, and latency. With speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G, 5G networks will enable seamless connectivity and support an array of emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). This transformative technology has the potential to reshape industries and unlock unprecedented opportunities for innovation and economic development.
The organization adds that “By the end of 2022, over 5.4 billion people globally subscribed to a mobile service, including 4.4 billion people who also used the mobile internet.” The report notes that.
“The mobile internet usage gap has narrowed markedly in the last five years – from 50% in 2017 to 41% in 2022 on average – but still remains significant and demands urgent attention from all stakeholders.”
In 2022, mobile technologies and services generated 5% of global GDP, a contribution that amounted to $5.2 trillion of economic value added, and supported 28 million jobs across the wider mobile ecosystem.
Key trends that will shape the mobile ecosystem:
- 5G consumer monetization will come into focus: “Throughout 2023, some 30 new markets will launch 5G services; importantly, many of these will be developing markets across Africa and Asia, making 5G a truly global trend. As 5G adoption continues to scale, the monetization imperative will grow.”
- Mobile industry shifts towards circularity: “Across the telecoms ecosystem, sustainability has extended beyond corporate social responsibility to become a core strategic priority. Industry players are increasingly adopting a model of production, service offering and consumption that involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible.”
- The metaverse continues to gain traction: “Momentum for the metaverse continues to grow, alongside advancements in enabling technologies like 5G, AI and wearables. The growing interest from key stakeholders and ecosystem players has led to the emergence of important building blocks for the advancement of the metaverse, notably content and applications, standards and devices, which will be at the forefront of activities in 2023.”
- Fintech presents opportunities for mobile industry players: “Fintech has transformed the way financial services cater to consumers and businesses alike. Although investor sentiments fell sharply in 2022 after record funding the previous year, the fundamentals of growth – including high demand, digital-centric lifestyles and enabling regulations – remain strong.”
5G will be the dominant mobile technology by the end of this decade
The adoption of 5G technology is on the rise, thanks to the establishment of new networks and the availability of more affordable devices. As of January 2023, there were 229 commercial networks operating globally. In addition, over 700 different models oF compatible smartphones had been launched, with more than 200 of them introduced in 2022 alone.
This demonstrates the increasing accessibility and variety of options for consumers interested in using the 5th generation technology.
As users continue to shift from older network technologies like 2G and 3G, the number of connections on these legacy networks is expected to decline. This trend will prompt network operators to phase out these older networks, with 96 2G networks and 107 3G networks already planned for shutdown worldwide.
Looking ahead, network operators will prioritize driving the adoption of the 5th generation network after making substantial investments in the technology. Some markets have already embraced it as a mainstream option.
Notably, South Korea and the United States have seen connections surpass 40% of the total, showcasing the rapid integration of this advanced technology. However, in other regions, 4G technology still has room for growth and is projected to remain the dominant technology throughout the remainder of this decade.
Overall, the global landscape for 5G adoption is evolving, with increasing network availability, a diverse range of devices, and a shift away from legacy networks. While some markets have embraced 5G as a major player, others are expected to focus on expanding their existing 4G capabilities before transitioning fully to 5G in the coming years.
Africa still lagging
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the rollout is expected to follow a phased approach, differing from the rapid population coverage seen in more advanced markets. The implementation of the fifth-generation network in this region will likely take time, allowing for infrastructure development and gradual adoption.
Some of the reasons for this delay include the unavailability of the 5G spectrum; uncertainty over auction dates; and high investment for 3G/4G networks.
5G-related activities have begun to pick up across Africa, including spectrum auctions, pilots and commercial trials, as well as efforts to develop locally relevant use cases. The GSMA predicts that 5G will account for 20% of mobile connections in Africa by 2030.
“5G in Africa is a matter of when, not if. The decision on when to launch IT is often based on a number of factors in the local market that reflect the readiness of operators to roll out 5G networks and readiness of customers (consumers and enterprises) to adopt its services and enabled solutions,” the authors of 5G Africa: realising the potential said.
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