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Regional subscriptions outlook

All regions now have mobile broadband subscription penetration of 50 percent or higher.


Key findings

  • Mobile broadband subscription penetration has exceeded 50 percent in all regions.
  • On a global level, mobile broadband subscriptions make up 76 percent of all mobile subscriptions.
  • In 2024, more than 60 percent of North American mobile subscriptions are expected to be for 5G.
Mobile subscriptions by region and technology (percent)

In the India region, GSM/EDGE-only remained the dominant technology during 2018, accounting for 47 percent of mobile subscriptions at the end of the year. However, the country has experienced strong growth in LTE subscriptions over the last couple of years and, at the end of 2018, it accounted for 38 percent of mobile subscriptions. Mobile broadband1 technologies now make up more than 50 percent of subscriptions.

As the transformation towards more advanced technologies continues in India, LTE is forecast to represent 82 percent of mobile subscriptions by the end of 2024. 5G subscriptions are expected to become available in 2022 and will represent 6 percent of mobile subscriptions at the end of 2024.

The Middle East and Africa comprises over 70 countries and is a diverse region. It varies from advanced markets with 100 percent mobile broadband subscription penetration, as well as emerging markets, where around 40 percent of mobile subscriptions are for mobile broadband. At the end of 2018, close to 20 percent of mobile subscriptions were for LTE in the Middle East and North Africa, while in Sub-Saharan Africa, LTE accounted for around 7 percent of subscriptions. The region is anticipated to evolve over the forecast period and, by 2024, 90 percent of subscriptions are expected to be for mobile broadband. Driving factors behind this shift include a young and growing population with increasing digital skills, as well as more affordable smartphones.


On a global level, mobile broadband subscriptions make up 76 percent of all mobile subscriptions.

In the Middle East and North Africa, we anticipate commercial 5G deployments with leading communications service providers during 2019, and significant volumes in 2021. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 5G subscriptions, in discernible volumes, are expected from 2022. For the region as a whole, around 60 million 5G subscriptions are forecast for the end of 2024, representing 3 percent of total mobile subscriptions.

South East Asia and Oceania is a very diverse region, comprising developed markets with some of the world’s most advanced networks, as well as developing economies that have only recently launched LTE. Today, WCDMA/HSPA is still the region’s dominant technology, at 48 percent of subscriptions. However, LTE subscriptions grew by about 40 percent during 2018, and are expected to account for 63 percent of mobile subscriptions by the end of 2024. Early 5G launch plans have been announced in Australia with communications service providers upgrading their networks to 5G NR, both for enhanced mobile broadband and fixed wireless access use cases. Initial 5G commercial devices are expected in the region during the first half of 2019. By the end of 2024, it is anticipated that almost 12 percent of subscriptions in the region will be for 5G, as more markets launch 5G services.

In Central and Eastern Europe, transition from WCDMA/HSPA to LTE is continuing. LTE is forecast to become the dominant technology during 2019. It is expected to account for 72 percent of mobile subscriptions in 2024, with WCDMA/HSPA forecast to decline from 46 percent (at end of 2018) to just 13 percent by the end of 2024. The first 5G subscriptions are expected in 2019, and will make up 15 percent of subscriptions in 2024.

In Latin America, LTE became the dominant radio access technology in 2018, accounting for 42 percent of subscriptions, just above WCDMA/HSPA with a 39 percent share. The distribution of technology is expected to change over the forecast period, with LTE projected to represent three-quarters of all subscriptions in 2024, while WCDMA/HSPA accounts for only 13 percent. The first 5G deployments will be possible in the 3.5GHz band during 2019. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico are anticipated to be the first countries in the region to deploy 5G, with increased subscription uptake forecast from 2020. By the end of 2024, 5G is set to make up 7 percent of mobile subscriptions.

North America, North East Asia and Western Europe have high shares of mobile broadband subscriptions. Countries within these regions have developed economies, enabling a high adoption rate of information and communications technology. In North America, 5G commercialization is moving at a rapid pace. In the region, service providers have already launched commercial 5G services, both for fixed wireless access and mobile. North America’s LTE penetration is currently 87 percent, which is the highest share globally. By the end of 2024, we anticipate close to 270 million 5G subscriptions in the region, accounting for more than 60 percent of mobile subscriptions.

In North East Asia, the share of LTE subscriptions is high at 76 percent, with China alone having close to 1.2 billion LTE subscriptions at the end of 2018. In South Korea, communications service providers launched commercial 5G services in the beginning of April this year, and Japan and China are expected to follow with commercial 5G services. By the end of the forecast period, the region’s 5G subscription penetration is projected to reach 47 percent.

In Western Europe, LTE is the dominant access technology, accounting for 59 percent of all subscriptions. WCDMA/HSPA continues to decline and will represent only 4 percent of subscriptions in 2024. The momentum for 5G in the region was highlighted by the first commercial launch in April. By the end of 2024, 5G is expected to account for around 40 percent of mobile subscriptions.


63 percent of North American mobile subscriptions are expected to be for 5G in 2024.

1 Mobile broadband includes radio access technologies HSPA (3G), LTE (4G), 5G, CDMA2000 EV-DO, TD-SCDMA and Mobile WiMAX