Network coverage outlook
Mid-band essential for an optimal 5G service offering
- Global 5G mid-band population coverage (outside China) has reached just over 10 percent, while mid-band coverage in Europe has reached 15 percent, but front-runner markets like the US have already reached 80 percent.
- 5G population coverage is estimated to reach over 30 percent by the end of 2022, with coverage projected to increase to around 85 percent by 2028.
- Mid-band is a sweet spot for delivering the 5G experience, as it combines high capacity with good coverage and is available in most markets.
Three 5G spectrum bands
5G networks can be deployed in three radio spectrum bands, each with its own set of characteristics and benefits, as shown in Figure 15.
- Low-band for coverage and in-building penetration: 5G low-band (frequency division duplex, or FDD, below 7 GHz) is the most deployed band. It provides a wide coverage area due to its lower frequency. However, it is limited in capacity.
- Mid-band for coverage and capacity: 5G mid-band (time division duplex, or TDD, below 7 GHz) offers higher bandwidth and capacity than low-band.
- High-band (or mmWave) for targeted high-capacity areas and services: 5G high-band or mmWave (above 24 GHz) delivers unprecedented peak rates and low latency but less coverage.
5G deployment strategy linked to spectrum availability
There is a clear link between how service providers in different countries are deploying 5G with the spectrum availability. Three deployment approaches can be seen:
- All three bands: Low-, mid- and high-band. Examples include the US, Japan and Australia.
- Low- and mid-band: Examples include include Switzerland, the UK and China.
- Mid-band only: Examples include South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Figure 15: The three 5G spectrum bands
5G mid-band coverage outside China is set to reach over 10 percent by the end of 2022.
The journey to 5G standalone multi-layer network
As spectrum becomes increasingly available, more service providers will evolve toward using all three bands, enabling 5G services with the flexibility to serve multiple use cases with different requirements by ensuring that devices are connected using the most appropriate band.
Mid-band’s importance is rising
Mid-band is a sweet spot for delivering the 5G experience, as it combines high capacity (with Massive multiple input, multiple output, or MIMO) with good coverage and is available in most markets. Combined with a low-band FDD 5G carrier it can provide full coverage and mobility. While it is estimated that 5G mid-band population coverage will reach 25 percent worldwide by the end of 2022, outside China it is estimated to reach just over 10 percent.
Mid-band coverage in Europe to reach 15 percent by the end of 2022
Three years after the first 5G networks were launched in Europe, 5G population coverage in EU+1 is estimated to be around 65 percent with some service providers announcing that they have reached 80 percent population coverage. This is possible using spectrum sharing with 5G non-standalone (NSA) and 4G on the same FDD band. Coverage with 3.5 GHz TDD mid-band has only reached around 15 percent. Countries such as Switzerland and France – with coverage obligations – are leading deployment. Service providers in Germany are relying more on spectrum sharing, while the Netherlands is still awaiting TDD mid-band licensing.
5G NSA offers use cases such as mobile broadband and Fixed Wireless Access, as well as a significant capacity increase. Evolving to 5G standalone (SA) brings additional service differentiation possibilities.
Mid-band coverage in the US to reach around 80 percent by the end of 2022
The US is one of a few countries that has significant 5G deployments across low-, mid- and high-band frequencies. Launched in April 2019, 5G services were first available in high- and low-bands. Ten service providers have deployed 5G on low-band, covering over 95 percent of the US population. High-band 5G services are available in 90 cities. The Federal Communication Commission subsequently allocated mid-bands over the course of several auctions during 2020–2022. Currently the three national service providers are rapidly deploying 5G mid-band networks nationwide. Around 80 percent mid-band population coverage is projected by the end of 2022.
4G population coverage surpassed 85 percent globally at the end of 2021 and is projected to reach over 95 percent in 2028. There are currently 815 4G networks deployed across the world – 336 upgraded to LTE-Advanced, and 54 Gigabit enabled.2
The build-out of 5G continues, with 228 networks launched across the world. 5G population coverage is estimated to reach over 30 percent by the end of 2022, with coverage projected to increase to around 85 percent by 2028.
Globally, 5G population coverage is set to reach over 30 percent by the end of 2022.
Figure 16: World population coverage by technology3
5G population coverage is projected to reach 85 percent by 2028.
- EU+ includes the EU countries plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the UK.
- Ericsson and GSA (Nov 2022).
- The figures refer to coverage of each technology. The ability to utilize the technology is subject to factors such as access to devices and subscriptions.