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Regional mobile subscriptions outlook

Mobile broadband drives subscription growth across all regions.


Key findings

  • Mobile broadband is driving growth of mobile subscriptions worldwide.
  • Globally, mobile broadband subscriptions now make up 74 percent of all mobile subscriptions.
  • By 2024, 55 percent of mobile subscriptions in North America are expected to be for 5G.
Mobile subscriptions by region and technology (percent)

Globally, mobile broadband subscriptions now make up 74 percent of all mobile subscriptions.

In India, GSM/EDGE-only has remained the dominant technology during 2018, accounting for around 56 percent of total mobile subscriptions at the end of this year. However, the country has experienced strong growth in the number of LTE subscriptions over the last couple of years, and at the end of 2018 LTE will account for close to 30 percent of all mobile subscriptions.

As the transformation toward more advanced technologies continues in India, LTE is forecast to represent 81 percent of all mobile subscriptions at the end of 2024. 5G subscriptions are expected to become available in 2022.

The Middle East and Africa comprises over 70 countries and is a diverse region. It varies from advanced markets which have mobile broadband subscription penetration of 100 percent, and emerging markets where around 40 percent of mobile subscriptions are for mobile broadband. At the end of 2018, more than 20 percent of all mobile subscriptions will be for LTE in the Middle East and North Africa, while in Sub-Saharan Africa, LTE will account for just over 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. In the Middle East and North Africa, we anticipate commercial 5G deployments with leading communications service providers by 2019, and significant volumes in 2021. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 5G subscriptions in discernible volumes are expected from 2022.


55 percent of mobile subscriptions in North America are expected to be for 5G in 2024.

South East Asia and Oceania includes developed markets with some of the most advanced networks in the world, as well as developing economies that have only recently launched LTE. WCDMA/HSPA is still the dominant technology, at 48 percent of all subscriptions. However, LTE subscriptions grew by 70 percent during 2018, taking a share of 26 percent. This transformation is expected to continue over the forecast period and, in 2024, LTE is projected to account for 63 percent of all mobile subscriptions in the region. 5G subscriptions are expected to become available in 2021.

In Central and Eastern Europe, the transition from WCDMA/HSPA to LTE is continuing. LTE is forecast to become the dominant technology in 2019 and to account for around 86 percent of all mobile subscriptions in 2024. The first 5G subscriptions are expected in 2019, and will make up close to 10 percent of total subscriptions in 2024.

In Latin America, LTE became the dominant radio access technology in 2018, accounting for 42 percent of all subscriptions – just above WCDMA/HSPA, with a share of 39 percent. The distribution of technology is expected to change dramatically over the forecast period, with LTE projected to represent three-quarters of all subscriptions in 2024. 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.

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, and the region is the first to launch commercial 5G services. In the United States, one of the four major service providers deployed a 5G fixed wireless internet service at the beginning of October 2018, and another has announced plans to deploy 5G based on the 3GPP 5G standard by the end of 2018. The other two major service providers are expected to launch 5G services in early 2019. LTE penetration is currently 87 percent in North America, which is the highest share globally. By the end of 2024, we anticipate more than 250 million 5G subscriptions in the region, accounting for over 55 percent of all mobile subscriptions.

In North East Asia, the share of LTE subscriptions is high at 82 percent. China alone will have more than 1.3 billion LTE subscriptions at the end of 2018. 5G is expected to be deployed early in South Korea, Japan and China and, by the end of the forecast period, 5G subscription penetration is projected to exceed 43 percent in North East Asia.

In Western Europe, LTE is the dominant access technology, accounting for 57 percent of all subscriptions. WCDMA/HSPA continues to decline and will represent only 2 percent of subscriptions in 2024. The region is preparing for 5G, with many operators planning commercial launches during 2019. By the end of 2024, 5G is forecast to account for around 30 percent of all mobile subscriptions.

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