{ Markettagged:True , MatchedLanguageCode:True }

Population coverage

In the Ericsson Mobility Report June 2017, we forecast that by 2022, around 15 percent of the world’s population will be covered by 5G.


Key findings

  • LTE is the fastest-deployed mobile communication technology to date, in terms of build-out and subscription uptake
  • LTE population coverage will grow to more than 80% in 2022
  • 5G coverage will commence in major metropolitan areas
  • By 2022, 5G will cover around 15% of the population

Population coverage is the percentage of the world’s inhabitants that have sufficient radio signal to connect to a mobile network. The ability to utilize the technology is subject to factors such as access to devices and subscriptions. Population coverage by technology shows how mobile networks increasingly provide greater coverage at higher speeds.

Today, mobile networks cover around 95 percent of the world’s population and continue to expand. For mobile broadband (WCDMA/HSPA or later technology), population coverage is currently at around 80 percent and forecast to grow to around 95 percent in 2022. In some markets, it is expected that earlier generation systems will be closed down as subscribers move on to more capable devices, enabling refarming of the spectrum. North America, in particular, is expected to close GSM networks before 2022, and leading operators have announced time plans for this.

Graph: World population coverage by tech

LTE is the fastest-deployed mobile communication technology

In terms of build-out and subscription uptake, LTE is the fastest-deployed mobile communication technology to date. It took just 5 years for LTE to cover 2.5 billion people, compared to 8 years for WCDMA/HSPA.

The rapid introduction of offerings based on LTE in the US and China is the main reason for this faster deployment speed, creating a mass market and economies of scale in a short time. Other significant factors include the demand for improved user experience and faster networks, and an attractive device and app ecosystem coupled with low cost per megabyte. LTE population coverage is currently around 55 percent and forecast to grow to more than 80 percent in 2022.

5G coverage will begin in major metro areas

The speed of 5G network deployment will depend on the growth of the complete ecosystem, and will be impacted by the availability of 5G-capable devices and decisions on spectrum allocation.

It is expected that many operators will deploy 5G commercially from 2020, in line with the time plan for 5G standardization. Early commercial deployments of Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G and pre-standard networks are anticipated in several markets, driven by the need for enhanced mobile broadband and as  a complement to fixed broadband internet services.

Over time, 5G will enable a wide range of use cases for the IoT. Acceleration of the 5G NR standardization schedule will enable large-scale trials and deployments of 5G in 2019. The adoption rate of 5G mobile broadband is expected to be similar to that of LTE, and rollout will commence in major metro areas, reaching around 15 percent population coverage by 2022. 

1 The figures refer to population coverage of each technology. The ability to utilize the technology is subject to factors such as access to devices and subscriptions