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Future of mobile technology usage by region

Mobile broadband is the key driver for subscriptions growth across all regions


Key highlights:

  • 25% of subscriptions in North America and 10% in Asia Pacific will be for 5G in 2022
  • 3X growth in mobile broadband subscriptions in Middle East and Africa between 2016 and 2022

The number of mobile subscriptions continues to grow across the regions, fueled by the strong uptake of mobile broadband subscriptions.1 As can be seen in the graph ‘Mobile subscriptions by region and technology’ below, in 5 out of 6 regions, mobile broadband subscriptions now make up more than 50 percent of all subscriptions. Many consumers in developing markets first experience the internet on a smartphone, mainly due to limited access to fixed broadband.

Greater device affordability is encouraging new subscribers in developing regions, while growth in mature markets is largely due to individuals adding more devices. In Middle East and Africa, where the penetration of mobile broadband is currently lower than in other regions, the growth in mobile broadband subscriptions is expected to be particularly strong moving forwards. A driving factor is the growing economy in several countries, supported by a young and growing population and more affordable smartphones. 

Mobile broadband subscriptions by region billion

Mobile subscriptions in Middle East and Africa are mainly GSM/EDGE-only, while in Western Europe and North America the majority are WCDMA/HSPA and LTE

Mobile subscriptions by region and technology percent

Over the forecast period, Middle East and Africa will dramatically shift from a region with a majority of GSM/EDGE-only subscriptions, to a region where 80 percent of the subscriptions will be WCDMA/HSPA and LTE. However, GSM/EDGE-only subscriptions will still account for a significant share of subscriptions by 2022. In Latin America, WCDMA/HSPA and LTE already account for around 60 percent of all mobile subscriptions – a number that is expected to increase to 90 percent in 2022.

Asia Pacific is a diverse region. Despite ongoing deployment of LTE in China, which will result in more than 1.2 billion LTE subscriptions in the country by the end of 2022, LTE subscriptions will represent just 50 percent of all subscriptions in the region by the end of the same period. This will be around one quarter of the global total. 5G subscriptions will account for around 10 percent of all subscriptions in the region in 2022, with deployments starting in South Korea, Japan and China. All three of these countries will host Olympic games in the coming six years, and have stated intentions to launch 5G services in conjunction with the games.

In Central and Eastern Europe, the share of LTE subscriptions is anticipated to grow strongly from around 10 percent in 2016 to 70 percent of all mobile subscriptions in 2022.

In Western Europe, the share of mobile broadband subscriptions is high due to well-developed WCDMA/HSPA networks and early LTE rollout. The regional share of 5G subscriptions will be 5 percent in 2022. Overall, North America is the region with the highest share of LTE subscriptions due to rapid migration from CDMA and WCDMA/HSPA-based networks. In 2022, the region will have the highest share of 5G subscriptions at 25 percent.

Related content

Mobile subscriptions and penetration Q3 2016

Subscriptions for smartphones now account for 55 percent of all mobile subscriptions.

Future of mobile subscriptions

Mobile broadband will account for 90 percent of all subscriptions by the end of 2022.

Future mobile data usage and traffic growth

By the end of 2022, more than 90 percent of mobile data traffic will come from smartphones.

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