Ericsson's 5G outlook: mobile subscriptions to reach 1 billion in 2023

The number of mobile subscriptions will increase significantly in coming years when 5G comes to market, according to Ericsson Mobility Report


Ericsson forecasts a total of 1 billion 5G subscriptions by 2023, after an upsurge in users once the mobile wireless standard is expected to be ubiquitous in 2020.

The figures from Ericsson’s mobility report 2018 also show that this will make up 12 percent of mobile subscriptions globally, which does not include IoT connections and fixed wireless access. However, Ericsson predicts that IoT connections will reach 3.5 billion in 2023.

Image: Monika Byléhn at 5G World
Image: Monika Byléhn at 5G World

Speaking on stage at 5G World in London’s Excel last week, Cecilia Atterwall, head of marketing and communications for networks at Ericsson said: "Of course this would vary a lot region to region, but if you look at the traffic perspective, some 20 percent of the worldwide traffic will be covered and catered for by 5G. That alone is one and a half times the traffic we see globally today across all technologies."

According to the telco, the report - which is based on 50 countries around the world - found that there will be an increase of about eight times the global traffic from 2017 to 2023.

This is about 1.5 times more than the total 4G, 3G and 2G traffic available today. Ericsson believes that 5G, when more widely deployed in dense urban areas, will also be used for fixed wireless access, for example on building sites and in homes.

“When we ask consumers what they see already today, there is clear feedback that already or even in the most advanced 4G markets today, there is a misconception of consumers that the speed is not where it should be and the performance of the network is not holding as it should,” she added.

Atterwall emphasised the importance of providers delivering 5G experiences to overcome this. This means focusing more on the performance in certain areas, and how 5G can deliver a better network – which is where the need for the right 5G spectrum comes in.

As discussed during an online webinar of the mobility report, the global distribution of enough spectrum bandwidth is essential to meet consumer demand for data speeds and capacities.

Read next: Interesting companies developing 5G in the UK

Ericsson believes there are still a number of steps to take in order to secure the right spectrum for accurate allocation across countries.

“Today there are areas in the network where you have an extortion of the spectrum availability and at times of the day you’re not giving your customers what they expect. Use the additional spectrum that you would get with 5G to build capacity in those areas in a cost-efficient way,” she said.

Ericsson believes there are many ways to deliver an efficient 5G user experience but network slicing is the core requirement. Network slicing is a form of virtualisation that enables several logical networks to run on top of the shared physical network.

In an interview with Computerworld UK, Fredrik Engstromer, head of marketing of 5G core business area digital services at Ericsson said: “In many ways, you can build an enormously big network with an unlimited capacity and then you’ll have no problem getting these services.

“In other ways, you could have a separate network and you could build dedicated frameworks, or you could build a network and have a separate valve within that work site. Actually, we did the work together with IT to look at these alternatives and we found that network slicing was financially the better alternative in terms of revenues.”

Ericsson also collaborated with Swisscom in February 2018 to deliver end-to-end network slicing to explore a range of use cases for both 4G and 5G, one of them is to deliver reliable performance in transportation. The network slicing product is now available for operators to trial ahead of 5G.

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