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Mobile subscriptions outlook

5G mobile subscriptions to exceed 5.3 billion in 2029

Mobile subscriptions outlook

5G subscriptions to reach 1.6 billion in 2023

Key findings
  • During the third quarter of 2023, 163 million 5G subscriptions were added to make up a total of 1.4 billion.
  • Service providers continue to deploy 5G, with around 280 having launched commercial networks so far, of which around 40 have deployed or launched 5G standalone (SA).
  • 5G is expected to overtake 4G to become the dominant subscription type in 2028.

Service providers continue to deploy 5G despite a weaker global economy and geopolitical uncertainties. Around the world, about 280 service providers have now launched commercial 5G services, and more than 40 have deployed or launched 5G standalone (SA).1 The most common 5G services launched by service providers for consumers are enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), gaming and some AR/VR-based services.

North America leading 5G subscription growth

The uptake of 5G subscriptions2 in North America continues to be strong, and at the end of 2023 the region is expected to have the highest 5G subscription penetration globally at 61 percent. In North East Asia, penetration is anticipated to be 41 percent, followed by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries at 34 percent and Western Europe at 25 percent. 5G subscription growth has also been higher than expected in India, and 5G penetration of 11 percent is expected by the end of 2023. Global 5G subscriptions are forecast to reach 1.6 billion by the end of 2023, accounting for 18 percent of all mobile subscriptions.

5G will become the dominant mobile access technology by subscription in 2028. Global 5G subscriptions are forecast to exceed 5.3 billion in 2029, making up 58 percent of all mobile subscriptions at that time. It is projected that North America and GCC will have the highest 5G penetration in 2029 at 92 percent, followed by Western Europe at 85 percent.

Subscriptions for 4G increased by 6 million during Q3 2023, totaling 5.2 billion. 4G subscriptions are at their peak, and are now projected to decline to around 3.2 billion by the end of 2029, as subscribers migrate to 5G.

During the third quarter, 3G subscriptions declined by 61 million, while GSM/EDGE-only subscriptions dropped by 55 million and other technologies3 decreased by about 2 million.

China had the greatest net additions of subscriptions during the quarter with 13 million added, followed by India with 12 million added, and then the US with 3 million added.

Figure 1: Mobile subscriptions by technology


5G subscriptions are forecast to reach 1.6 billion by the end of 2023.

1. 1 GSA and Ericsson (November 2023).

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

3. Mainly CDMA2000 EVDO, TD-SCDMA and Mobile WiMAX.

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