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Mobile subscriptions worldwide outlook

5G has now been commercially launched.


Key findings

  • By the end of 2024, we forecast 1.5 billion 5G subscriptions for enhanced mobile broadband. Key drivers include increased network capacity and decreased cost per byte.
  • The number of LTE subscriptions is forecast to reach 5.4 billion by the end of 2024.
  • Mobile subscriptions worldwide are forecast to reach 8.9 billion at the end of 2024, including 7.2 billion smartphone subscriptions.

There is strong momentum in the global 5G market. In the United States, one of the major communications service providers launched a 5G home internet service at the beginning of October, and all four of the country’s major service providers have publicly announced that they will begin providing 5G services between late 2018 and mid-2019. Other markets expecting significant 5G subscription volumes early include South Korea, Japan and China. In Europe, some spectrum auctions have already been held, and others will take place over the next few years. The first commercial 5G subscriptions in the region are expected in 2019.

On a global level, major 5G network deployments are anticipated from 2020, and by the end of 2024 we project 1.5 billion 5G subscriptions for enhanced mobile broadband. This will account for close to 17 percent of all mobile subscriptions at that time. With global mobile data traffic forecast to increase more than 5 times between 2018 and 2024, key drivers for 5G deployment include increased network capacity and decreased cost per byte. 5G subscription uptake is expected to be faster than for LTE, which in turn is the mobile communication technology with the fastest subscription uptake so far.

LTE has been the dominant mobile access technology since the end of 2017. The number of LTE subscriptions continues to grow strongly and is forecast to reach 5.4 billion by the end of 2024, when it will make up more than 60 percent of all mobile subscriptions. The number of WCDMA/HSPA subscriptions has declined slightly during 2018, though the technology is still estimated to account for close to 17 percent of all subscriptions in 2024.

Cellular IoT connections and fixed wireless access (FWA) subscriptions supporting new use cases will come on top of the mobile subscriptions shown in the graph below.


A 5G subscription is counted as such when associated with a device that supports New Radio (NR) as specified in 3GPP Release 15, and connected to a 5G-enabled network.

Mobile subscriptions by technology (billion)
Subscriptions and subscribers (billion)

Close to 95 percent of all subscriptions will be for mobile broadband by the end of 2024.

We forecast that there will be 8.9 billion mobile subscriptions by the end of 2024. Mobile broadband subscriptions will reach 8.4 billion, accounting for close to 95 percent of all mobile subscriptions. The number of unique mobile subscribers is estimated to reach 6.2 billion by the end of the forecast period.

Mobile broadband will complement fixed broadband in some segments and will be the dominant mode of access in others.1 Subscriptions for PCs and tablets with mobile capabilities are expected to show moderate growth, reaching 330 million in 2024.

Smartphone penetration continues to rise. At the end of 2018, there will be 5 billion smartphone subscriptions, 99 percent of which will be for 3G and 4G. The number of smartphone subscriptions is forecast to reach 7.2 billion in 2024, when practically all will be for mobile broadband.

Smartphone subscriptions by technology (billion)

1The number of fixed broadband users is at least three times the number of fixed broadband connections, due to shared subscriptions in households, enterprises and public access spots. This is the opposite to the situation for mobile phones, where subscription numbers exceed user numbers.