The East Asian consumer market is leading the way in 5G, according to a recent GSMA Intelligence Brief. With almost 20% of connections in the nation currently using 5G, South Korea has the world’s largest 5G network. China dominates in terms of volume at over 200 million connections. While Japanese operators launched late in March of 2020, they’ve made major growth each quarter since.
Currently, East Asia as a whole constitutes over 90% of worldwide 5G connections to date. Operators are phasing out 2G and 3G networks in order to focus resources on 4G and 5G. Also, the region has a consumer base that is ready to adopt the technology. In China and South Korea, half of consumers surveyed by GSMA said they would switch to 5G in 2019. In 2020, that number grew in China to two-thirds of consumers.
China’s Rapid Embrace of 5G
In China, 5G is rapidly expanding. By last October, Shanghai had 31,400 outdoor and 49,800 indoor 5G base stations. This year, telecommunications companies plan to place another 8,000 5G outdoor base stations in the metropolis. City officials aim to have full 5G coverage by 2025. Furthermore, they anticipate average download speeds to soar to 500Mbps by that time. Other big Chinese cities, including Shenzhen and the capital of Beijing, already enjoy full 5G coverage.
In total, operators in China established almost 700,000 5G base stations last year on top of 100,000 stations erected in 2019. This year, local operators plan to build another 600,000 stations.
Additionally, Chinese customers are quickly switching to 5G. In December, the carrier China Mobile had 165 million 5G subscribers, and it picked up 17.62 million that month alone. The company also built 385,000 5G base stations across the country. China Mobile is not alone in its 5G growth. During that time, the carrier China Telecom picked up 7 million subscribers and now boasts 86.50 million subscribers.
5G Continues Growth in the U.S.
While the U.S. is the biggest 5G market outside of East Asia, providers have mainly focused on establishing 5G on a smaller scale in a few select cities. Verizon plans to double its mmWave 5G sites, a move that will increase coverage in existing cities. Meanwhile, rival AT&T expects growth similar to its 4G usage, though it has not yet revealed user numbers. Additionally, a recent merger between carriers T-Mobile and Sprint now represents the farthest-reaching coverage in the U.S. With the second highest number of customers, the merger offers enormous possibilities for expanding 5G connections in the country.
While the world still has a ways to go in expanding to full 5G coverage, the rapid shift to 5G networks is clearly underway.
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GSMA Intelligence. (3 February 2021). Intelligence Brief: Where is the next big 5G market? Mobile World Live.
Pedro Tomas, Juan. (2 February 2021). Chinese telcos to deploy 8,000 5G base stations in Shanghai in 2021. RCR Wireless News.