5G is the fastest growing cellular wireless technology when measured in terms of new subscriptions, according to a new report from 5G Americas. Based on data from Omdia, there are now more than 17.7 million 5G connections globally as of the fourth quarter of 2019 – a 329% jump over the previous quarter – and 5 million subscribers ahead of previous projections.
The rapid growth of 5G compares favorably against the first year for previous cellular communication technologies like LTE, which has grown to 5.3 billion connections in its first 10 years.
LTE became commercially available in the last quarter of 2009, but initially was used only by around 1,000 customers in Western Europe. In 2010, North America added 20,000 more LTE customers, bringing the total to 23,250 connections globally. It took until the first quarter 2012 (10 calendar quarters) for 4G LTE to reach 17.9 million connections – roughly where 5G is today. By comparison, 3G did not reach that mark until December 2010, after 11 quarters and 2G reached it in December 1995, after 14 quarters.
5G Americas credits the rapid growth of 5G to the ramp up of 3GPP-standard commercial 5G networks deployed globally. There are now 59 5G commercial networks, a number which is expected to nearly quadruple to 200 by the end of 2020, according to information from TeleGeography.
North America had 587,000 5G connections and 483 million LTE connections by the end of 2019. In the final quarter of the year, North America continued with robust subscription additions of 434,000 5G connections (representing a 284% increase from the previous quarter) and 13 million LTE connections (a 2.7% increase from the previous quarter).
“We truly had a great year in 2019, as 5G adoption has surpassed most forecasts,” said Chris Pearson, president of 5G Americas, in a prepared statement. “With the first year of 5G completed, 2020 is shaping up to be focused on the growth of new 5G devices, increasing coverage, increasing network densification and probably the first 5G stand-alone deployments.”
Telecompetitor reported last month that the U.S. ranks third in global 5G deployments.