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North America Region

North America Region

North America: A closer look

Explore the trends in this region

Key findings

Both the US and Canada have made impressive progress in deploying 5G nationwide, despite differences in which spectrum bands they have used.

Today, 59 percent of North American smartphone subscriptions are 5G.

5G penetration plus high population coverage makes the region fertile ground for technology innovation.

In each edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, we take a closer look at the trends in one specific region. This time we are exploring the US and Canada in the North America region.

In the US, over 300 million people (90 percent) live in areas served by 5G low-band from all three tier-1 service providers, while 210–300 million are covered by 5G mid-band.[1] Furthermore, 5G mmWave is deployed in major metropolitan areas. These significant deployments reflect commitment to technological advancements and innovation five years into the 5G deployment cycle.

Mobile broadband to smartphones

The rapid network build-out has enabled 5G smartphone subscriptions to grow faster than any previous generation. Today, 59 percent of North American smartphone subscriptions are 5G, with 53 percent of US subscribers and 37 percent of Canadian subscribers satisfied with their 5G services.[2]

With the introduction of 5G, there are now various data plans beyond fast and reliable connectivity services. Four 5G data plan building blocks stand out: micro-segmentation of the market, differentiated connectivity, service bundling and commercial bundling. These building blocks are the basis for between two and four data plans per target segment.

The combination of powerful networks that satisfy customers’ growing data traffic needs and attractive plans has led to monthly post-paid churn rates of below 1 percent.[3] With 5G, service providers have been able to turn the declining revenues per subscriber that characterized 4G into growth. Revenue growth is still below inflation and will depend on connectivity, device and application innovations to deliver on the full 5G potential.

FWA matches fiber and beats cable

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), which quickly became the second-largest 5G use case, reached around 9 million connected business and residential locations across the US in Q1 2024.4 This expansion was possible through innovative solutions that address the complete value proposition for FWA, offering reliable and high-speed connectivity to a wide range of users.

5G in the mid-band spectrum has closed the performance gap compared to wired infrastructure. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently increased the US benchmark for what is considered fixed broadband to 100/20 Mbps, a target FWA can meet with 5G in mid- and high-band spectrum.

Initial launches of 5G FWA were focused on simplicity, self-install indoor equipment and discounted price plans with promotions. Over the past year, service providers started to become more selective about pricing, reducing promotions and even increasing prices. In addition, new FWA offerings were launched, including offerings focused on home experience, nomadic FWA, and new self-install outdoor receivers.

Three years into the ramp-up, FWA captures all fixed broadband net adds with a Net Promoter Score that matches fiber and outperforms cable.

Figure 4: North America region mobile subscriptions by technology

5G networks at prominent use places

From the start, the US market adopted mmWave at use places with a high concentration of people or with unserved business needs. Two types of deployments have dominated: private 5G networks deployed to support a business, or hybrid public/private networks in locations serving both consumers and companies in one location.

The lessons from the build-out of 5G in arenas and large venues, today serving more than 100 locations for sports and concerts, provide a good recipe for how to scale down from a few prominent use places to many smaller key venues.

The first 5G deployments were at the venues selected for the annual American football final in 2020, starting with public 5G for all fans. Phase two was scaling this offering to all venues hosting professional football games and then other professional sports. Once this market was saturated, expansion continued to college sports. In the US alone, there are 243 sports venues with more than 20,000 seats each, representing an excellent market opportunity.

After the initial build-out of public 5G networks, the sports venue has entered a second innovation phase focused on supporting all businesses operating at these locations. 5G supports ticket and security screening at the entrances, connects concession stands for food and merchandise and makes life easier for professional photographers and TV crews to connect their cameras.

This approach can serve as a model when scaling to other types of use place categories serving visitors and businesses, such as:

  • airports (64 airports carry over 0.5 percent of all US passenger traffic each)
  • hotels (there are 70 hotels with more than 1,000 rooms in the US)
  • universities (there are 279 research universities based in the US)

Starting big and then scaling down in steps is also the recipe for pure private networks in factories, ports, warehouses, military bases and mines. Previous generations of cellular networks were defined to support large public networks. The scaling challenge for private networks is therefore to scale down from the largest use place in a category and reach smaller locations to maximize market reach.

Major differences between the US and Canada

5G deployments in the US and Canada differ on a few points. US service providers have deployed 5G in low-, mid- and high-band spectrum, whereas Canadian deployments are in low- and mid-band spectrum. The US has allocated 150 MHz of unlicensed/shared CBRS spectrum (3.55–3.70 GHz) and Canada 80 MHz (3.90–3.98 GHz). The US leads in the adoption of FWA, and fiber’s share of total broadband connections is higher in Canada (30 percent) versus the US (22.6 percent).[5]

The combination of 5G penetration and high population coverage in North America is fertile ground for innovation in the region.

The US technology ecosystem

The technology ecosystem in the US enjoys having a powerful 5G infrastructure in their home market as a foundation for creating the next generation of innovations; in the same way, the early build-out of 4G infrastructure in the US paved the way for the US-led digital economy.

Mobile operating systems and smartphones have been central to the mobile broadband ecosystem momentum. System-on-a-chip, server hardware, cloud execution environments, hyperscale cloud infrastructure, mobile operating systems and devices are all categories where two or more US companies define the global market. The transition to cloud-native Core and RAN is enabled by US silicon, server and cloud providers. 5G is growing in importance for hybrid workers wanting secure connectivity beyond homes and offices for their personal productivity devices. In the second half of the deployment cycle, we expect further ecosystem expansion where US system integrators with solid vertical competence, application developers and Fortune 500 companies can vet solutions at home before scaling globally, especially when enabling innovations combining 5G, AI and cloud.

Next steps

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Quarterly reports: AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.
Quarterly reports: AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.
Quarterly reports: AT&T, T-Mobile, USCC and Verizon.
OECD broadband report (March 2024).