How 5G is changing mobile data traffic

Presented by Ericsson North America

A snapshot of the mobile industry shows a tremendous, rapidly growing appetite for data. Over the past year, there has been a 68% increase in mobile data traffic usage across the globe, according to the most recent Ericsson Mobility Report.

This increase in mobile data traffic is expected to grow in the coming years, coinciding with increased adoption of 5G and continued expansion of 4G coverage. By the end of 2025, Ericsson expects 5G to have 2.6 billion subscriptions, covering up to 65% of the world’s population and generating 45% of the world’s total mobile data traffic. It will be the fastest developing mobile communication technology to have ever been rolled out on a global scale.

Here are three additional ways the 5G momentum will affect mobile users:

  • North America will lead the way. Due to North American consumers’ high adoption rate of communication technology, the region will be one of the hottest markets for 5G over the next few years. It’s expected that there will be 320 million 5G subscriptions in North America, accounting for 74% of all mobile subscriptions. Additionally, 91% of current wireless subscriptions in this market are 4G, which is the highest share globally. As service providers continue deploying 5G networks across the continent, we will see more and more consumers make the switch to 5G.
  • Data consumption will increase drastically. The fast adoption rate, speed, and low latency of 5G will drive data use. Mobile data traffic growth is driven by video, but there are other factors, including mobile gaming, and the push toward higher resolutions. 5G will also allow for more immersive media formats and applications like VR/AR and 360 video, providing the performance needed for a good user experience. The Mobility Report estimates that by 2025, the expected average monthly mobile data usage will be 45GB per smartphone in North America alone. Currently, 5G is available in select cities, but as service providers continue to expand their 5G networks, we can expect the usage of data to increase. For comparison, service providers that launched nationwide 5G in South Korea saw an average mobile data traffic per subscriber of over 25GB per month in August. This traffic flow was a result of the 3 million early adopters in South Korea who had subscribed to 5G since its deployment in April.
  • 5G is the future, but 4G subscriptions will continue moderate growth. Despite the advent of new 5G networks, 4G will continue to be a relevant network for people across the world. Currently, there are 4.34 billion 4G subscriptions worldwide. This number is expected to grow modestly over the next six years and reach 4.79 billion by 2025, on a parallel path with the rollout of 5G. We can expect consumers from countries with minimal subscription rates to be a large percentage of this growth. For example, 86% of India’s population has mobile subscriptions, which primarily consist of 4G and 2G. By 2025, the amount of mobile subscriptions in India is expected to increase by 3%, and will primarily consist of 4G (80%) and 5G (11%).

In an age of increasingly faster and sophisticated smartphones, it is clear that people will only continue to increase the amount of content they consume on their mobile devices. To capitalize on the findings from this report, service providers will need to provide customers with networks capable of withstanding the rapid growth of data consumption in the coming years. Increased focus on capacity and a closer look into consumer behavior will be critical for service providers and businesses.

Peter Linder is a 5G Evangelist for Ericsson North America.

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