Regional subscriptions outlook

Mobile broadband subscriptions currently make up 77 percent of all mobile subscriptions.

Key findings

  • At 74 percent, North America is forecast to have the highest percentage of 5G subscriptions globally by 2025.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, mobile broadband subscriptions are expected to account for 72 percent of all mobile subscriptions in 2025.
  • In Western Europe, 5G is still forecast to account for 55 percent of mobile subscriptions by 2025 despite short-term impact from delayed spectrum auctions.
Figure 10: Mobile subscriptions by region and technology (percent)

Figure 10: Mobile subscriptions by region and technology (percent)

In Sub-Saharan Africa, LTE accounted for around 11 percent of subscriptions in 2019. Over the forecast period mobile broadband1 subscriptions are predicted to increase, reaching over 70 percent of mobile subscriptions. LTE share will reach around 30 percent by the end of the forecast period, but HSPA will remain the dominant technology with a share of around 40 percent, which is similar to 2019. Driving factors behind the growth of mobile broadband subscriptions include a young, growing population with increasing digital skills, and more affordable smartphones. Over the forecast period, discernible volumes of 5G subscriptions are expected from 2022, reaching 3 percent by 2025.

In the Middle East and North Africa region, around 23 percent of mobile subscriptions were for LTE at the end of 2019. The region is anticipated to evolve over the forecast period, and by 2025, 77 percent of subscriptions are expected to be for mobile broadband. Commercial 5G deployments with leading service providers have taken place here during 2019 and 5G subscriptions have already passed 500,000, mainly in the Gulf countries. Significant volumes are expected in 2021 and the region is likely to reach around 80 million 5G subscriptions by 2025, representing around 10 percent of total mobile subscriptions.

In Latin America, LTE remains the dominant radio access technology during the forecast period, accounting for 51 percent of subscriptions at the end of 2019 and a predicted 68 percent in 2025. A steady decline in WCDMA/HSPA is forecast as users migrate to LTE and 5G, falling from 36 to 13 percent. The first 5G network deployments are expected during 2020 in the region, with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico anticipated to be the first countries. The subscription uptake is forecast to commence in 2020 and, by the end of 2025, 5G is set to make up 13 percent of mobile subscriptions.

Mobile broadband subscriptions are set to account for 72 percent of all mobile subscriptions in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2025.

In the India region, LTE subscriptions are forecast to increase from 550 million in 2019 to 820 million in 2025, increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7 percent. LTE remains the dominant technology, accounting for 49 percent of mobile subscriptions in 2019. LTE will continue to be dominant, representing 64 percent of mobile subscriptions in 2025. 5G will represent around 18 percent of mobile subscriptions in India at the end of 2025. Mobile broadband technologies accounted for 58 percent of mobile subscriptions in 2019, and this figure is predicted to reach 82 percent by 2025. The total number of mobile broadband subscriptions is set to exceed 1 billion by 2025. The number of smartphone subscriptions has increased to 620 million in 2019 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9 percent, reaching 1 billion by 2025.

The second half of 2020 is gearing up to be dynamic for 5G in South East Asia and Oceania. Deployments continue in Australia, with all service providers rolling out 5G networks after having deployed some of the first commercial networks in 2019. Other countries in the region are expected to follow. In Singapore, three nationwide 5G licenses have been awarded, and more than half of the country is expected to have 5G mobile network coverage by the end of 2022. In Thailand, several service providers are deploying 5G, making the country one of the first in South East Asia to enable this technology. Still in its early stages, there were more than 220,000 5G subscriptions in the region at the end of 2019, mostly concentrated in Australia. By 2025, 5G is predicted to be the second most popular cellular technology in the region, only behind LTE, surpassing 270 million subscriptions and accounting for around 20 percent of all mobile subscriptions.

In Central and Eastern Europe, LTE became the dominant technology in 2019, and now accounts for 43 percent of all subscriptions. To date more than five 5G networks have been commercially launched across the region. In 2025, LTE will remain the dominant technology and is expected to account for 66 percent of mobile subscriptions, while 5G subscriptions are forecast to make up 27 percent. During the forecast period, there will continue to be a significant decline in WCDMA/HSPA, from 38 percent to 3 percent of all subscriptions, as users migrate to LTE and 5G.

Further spectrum auctions in the key frequency bands like 700MHz, 3.4–3.8GHz and 4.7GHz were planned for the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, some of which have now been delayed. This will have a short-term impact on 5G deployment in affected countries.

In Western Europe, LTE is the dominant access technology, accounting for 68 percent of all subscriptions. LTE is predicted to decline to 43 percent and WCDMA/HSPA to only 2 percent of subscriptions by 2025. Around 20 service providers launched 5G services across the region in 2019, delivering services to around 230,000 subscribers. Further spectrum auctions in the 700MHz and 3.4–3.8GHz bands were planned during 2020, but some have now been delayed, which will have a short-term impact on the deployment and coverage of 5G in the region. The 5G subscription penetration is projected to reach 55 percent by the end of 2025.

In North East Asia, the share of LTE subscriptions is high, reaching 88 percent at the end of 2019, with China alone having 1.4 billion LTE subscriptions. During 2020, 5G development has been accelerating in the region. In South Korea, 5G network coverage continues to improve, with the goal of nationwide coverage by 2021. In China, the top three service providers have started to build out large-scale 5G coverage. The leading service providers in Japan have now launched commercial 5G services. In addition, more service providers in the region plan to start the 5G network roll-out, aiming at providing 5G services in 2020. By the end of 2020 the region is anticipated to have nearly 170 million 5G subscriptions, and at the close of the forecast period, the 5G subscription penetration is projected to reach 60 percent.

In North America, 5G commercialization is moving at a rapid pace. Service providers have already launched commercial 5G services, focused on mobile broadband. North America’s LTE penetration is currently 92 percent, which is the highest share globally. By the end of 2025, we anticipate close to 325 million 5G subscriptions in the region, accounting for 74 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.

5G will account for 74 percent of North American mobile subscriptions in 2025.

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