5G is growing up … and it’s growing up fast

From rumors and pilot tests to mass deployment and nearly 700 million subscriptions globally, 5G has taken over the world in a mere three years. 

According to Ericsson's latest Mobility report, as of June 2022, over 200 communications service providers have launched commercial 5G services, 24 of which are 5G standalone networks. Networks are available, 5G capable devices are plenty, and subscribers are catching up fast. According to Omdia, global 5G subscriptions could reach 1.3 billion by the end of the year, up from 500 million at the end of 2021. But is 5G really as fast as they say? Can 5G subscribers actually get a 5G connection when they need it most? And how much has 5G improved in the past year?

We set out to answer some of these questions as well as recognize operators that are leading the 5G revolution in our latest report: the 5G Mobile Network Experience Awards

  • To provide the most comprehensive picture of 5G today, we looked at a wide range of measures to determine which operators are ahead in the race: we examined how operators stack up across six key 5G measures, how much they’ve improved year over year, and the uplift in mobile experience seen by users while connected to 5G versus 4G services. 

  • There is clearly no single answer to the question who is leading in 5G. Some operators fare high in providing 5G services across a vast area but may not be offering the fastest speed. Others rank high across experiential measures such as 5G Games or Video Experience but show limited improvement year over year. 

  • On a grand scale we see operators across North America, Europe and some Asia markets - notably South Korea, Taiwan and Japan - are at the forefront of 5G today. But competition is heating up, and as more countries prepare for commercial 5G launches in the coming months and years, we’re excited to see where 5G will take us next. 

Three years from now …

According to the GSMA’s Mobile Economy 2022 report, 5G will account for every fourth connection worldwide by 2025, reaching 2 billion connections in the next three years. 

The potential of 5G in Asia and Latin America in particular is enormous. One of the most exciting markets we’re watching closely is India, where auctions for 5G spectrum have just finished but already nearly 10% of smartphones in the country are 5G-capable. A sizable opportunity for a country with over 1 billion mobile subscribers. Additionally, markets with modest incomes but mass populations, the likes of India, Brazil and Indonesia could accelerate production of more affordable 5G devices paving the way for greater 5G adoption. 

The world is undoubtedly more connected than it has ever been, but as more people get online, there are also hundreds of millions who are left behind, posing the question: will 5G narrow or widen the digital divide? Some of our latest analysis focuses precisely on the 5G urban rural divide in Italy, Austria, and Germany

No doubt 5G still has plenty of potential to grow as well as challenges to face along the way. Three years down the line we may even see a first pilot of the next mobile generation - 6G - crop up. But our commitment to reporting the truth about users’ real-world experience remains just the same, whatever the technology.