Some 500 million people will be getting ultrafast 5G mobile broadband to their smartphone or home over the next five years.
That’s the conclusion of Swedish mobile maker Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report, a detailed study of global mobile network data.
In March 2017, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), approved an early variant of 5G, called Non-standalone 5G NR (NSA 5G NR), which will enable large-scale rollouts of 5G technology as early as 2019.
5G wasn’t expected to begin rolling out until 2020.
NSA 5G NR will be dependant on existing 4G LTE infrastructure, but utilise new 5G technology to deliver a significantly improved service.
This standard is to be an “intermediate milestone” to help bridge the gap between 4G and 5G, in preparation for the large-scale rollout of an entirely standalone 5G network that will not rely on any existing 4G infrastructure.
Ericsson also predict a significant rise in the demand for mobile broadband, meaning many customers will be eager to jump into 5G as soon as it arrives.
Currently, the number of mobile broadband subscriptions evenly match the number of mobile subscribers. This strongly implies that mobile broadband is almost entirely serving smartphones, and barely being used for anything else.
However, Ericsson predict that this will not remain the case for long.
As 4G LTE coverage increases and more devices requiring mobile internet are released, mobile broadband is predicted to quickly overtake the number of mobile-only subscribers.
By 2022, over 90 percent of all mobile service subscriptions will cover mobile broadband, and over 20 percent of those subscriptions will be serving devices beyond smartphones.
Some of this growth will centre on mobile broadband replacing fixed-line broadband.
Currently, mobile broadband has surprisingly competitive speeds with fixed-line options in many locations – although strict usage caps and expensive data allowances are a big drawback for many customers.
Another aspect fuelling the growth of mobile broadband is an increase in mobile-ready devices.
Currently, a vast majority of PCs and tablets are used without a mobile broadband subscription. According to Ericsson, the main reason for this is the “price difference between Wi-Fi-only models and those with mobile capabilities”.
The smartphone market is clearly demonstrating that increasing the affordability of devices results in massive growth. There are currently 3.9 billion active smartphones in use today and, as cheap smartphones continue to be released, that number will reach 6.8 billion by 2022.
The picture painted by Ericsson is clear, as 5G rolls out and devices become cheaper, mobile broadband will quickly become the dominant first-choice for internet access across the globe.