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Regional subscriptions outlook

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

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Key findings

  • Currently, 77 percent of all mobile subscription are mobile broadband subscriptions.
  • In India, LTE is forecast to surpass GSM/EDGE as the dominant technology by the end of 2019 and represent 80 percent of mobile subscriptions by the end of 2025.
  • North America currently has the highest LTE penetration globally at 91 percent. By the end of 2025 5G is forecast to account for 74 percent of mobile subscriptions.
Mobile subscriptions by region and technology (percent)

In the India region, LTE subscriptions are forecast to increase by 150 million during 2019 and pass GSM/EDGE as the dominant technology. Mobile broadband[1] technologies will account for 57 percent of mobile subscriptions at the end of the year, and the share of smartphone subscriptions is expected to have increased from 48 percent to 54 percent.

As the transformation toward more advanced technologies continues in India, LTE is forecast to represent 80 percent of mobile subscriptions by the end of 2025. 5G subscriptions are expected to become available in 2022 and will represent 11 percent of mobile subscriptions at the end of 2025.

In India, LTE subscriptions are set to increase by 150 million during 2019.

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, to emerging markets, where around 40 percent of mobile subscriptions are for mobile broadband. At the end of 2019, around 25 percent of mobile subscriptions are expected to be for LTE in the Middle East and North Africa, while in Sub-Saharan Africa, LTE will account for around 11 percent of subscriptions. The region is anticipated to evolve over the forecast period, and by 2025, 82 percent of subscriptions in the Middle East and North Africa are expected to be for mobile broadband, while in Sub-Saharan Africa mobile broadband subscriptions will increase to reach around 70 percent of mobile subscriptions. 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, commercial 5G deployments with leading service providers have taken place during 2019, and significant volumes are expected in 2021. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 5G subscriptions in discernible volumes are expected from 2022. For the region as a whole, around 120 million 5G subscriptions are forecast for the end of 2025, with 90 million subscriptions in the Middle East and North Africa, representing around 10 percent of total mobile subscriptions.

South East Asia and Oceania has already seen the launch of 5G networks for both mobile broadband and fixed wireless access in Australia. Multiple 5G trials have also been carried out in several other countries in the region, with some markets in South East Asia waiting for spectrum allocations in order to launch 5G.

Though today WCDMA/HSPA is still the region’s dominant technology, by 2025 it is expected that 4G (LTE) will have become the main mobile technology, with 63 percent of the total number of subscriptions. At the same time, 5G subscriptions are expected to make up 21 percent of all subscriptions. During the forecast period, smartphone subscriptions are projected to grow 5 percent annually, surpassing 1 billion in 2025.

In Central and Eastern Europe, 2019 is the year that has seen LTE become the dominant technology, forecast to account for 42 percent of all subscriptions at the end of the year. 2019 is also the year we have seen 5G networks commercially launched in Latvia and Romania. In 2025 LTE will remain the dominant technology and is expected to account for 70 percent of mobile subscriptions, while 5G subscriptions are forecast to make up 25 percent. During the forecast period there will continue to be a significant decline in WCDMA/HSPA, from 38 to 2 percent of all subscriptions, as users migrate to LTE and 5G. Further spectrum auctions in the 700MHz and 3.4–3.8GHz bands are planned during 2020, which will support the continued deployment of 5G in the region.

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 69 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 will be possible toward the end of 2019 in the region, with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico anticipated to be the first countries in the region to deploy 5G. The subscription uptake is forecast to commence in 2020 and, by the end of 2025, 5G is set to make up 11 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. Service providers have already launched commercial 5G services, both for fixed wireless access and mobile. North America’s LTE penetration is currently 91 percent, which is the highest share globally. By the end of 2025, we anticipate close to 320 million 5G subscriptions in the region, accounting for 74 percent of mobile subscriptions.

74% of North American mobile subscriptions are expected to be for 5G in 2025

In North East Asia, the share of LTE subscriptions is high, expected to reach 88 percent at the end of 2019, with China alone having close to 1.4 billion LTE subscriptions. In South Korea, 5G subscriptions are increasing rapidly following the launch of commercial services in April 2019. In China, 5G commercial licenses were issued to four service providers earlier this year and commercial services were launched in the beginning of Q4 2019. In Japan, service providers are expected to launch commercial 5G services in 2020. By the end of the forecast period, the region’s 5G subscription penetration is projected to reach 56 percent.

In Western Europe, LTE is the dominant access technology, accounting for 69 percent of all subscriptions. Over the forecast period 5G is predicted to become the dominant technology, reaching 55 percent of all subscriptions, with LTE declining to 42 percent and WCDMA/HSPA reducing to only 2 percent of subscriptions in 2025. The first commercial launch in the region was in April 2019, and now around 20 service providers have launched 5G services across the region.

Further spectrum auctions in the 700MHz and 3.4–3.8GHz bands are planned during 2020, which will accelerate the deployment and coverage of 5G in the region.

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