Telcos shift focus to differentiated offers as 5G matures

Around 300 communications service providers (CSPs) globally now offer 5G services, of which about 50 have launched 5G Standalone, according to Ericsson.

Global 5G population coverage beyond mainland China was pegged at 40% at the end of 2023. 

About 160 million 5G subscriptions were added globally in the first three months of 2024, bringing the total to more than 1.7 billion.

Almost 600 million new subscriptions are expected in 2024 as a whole. 

Mobile network data traffic grew 25% year-on-year between the end of March 2023 and the end of March 2024, driven primarily by subscriber migration to later generations and data-intense services such as video. 

About a quarter of all mobile network data was handled by 5G by the end of 2023.

Fredrik Jejdling, EVP and head of networks at Ericsson, says the June 2024 Ericsson Mobility Report shows continued strong uptake of 5G subscriptions. 

“Enhanced Mobile Broadband and Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) are the leading use cases, with signs that 5G capabilities are influencing service providers’ FWA offerings,” said Jejdling. “The report also highlights the need for increased deployment of 5G Standalone technology to fully realize the potential of 5G.” 

Fixed Wireless Access continues to grow in strength as a 5G use case for CSPs globally with a sharp increase over the past year in the number of CSPs offering the service. FWA is currently second only to enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) as a 5G use case.

5G mid-band population coverage outside of mainland China has reached 35%. North America and India have made rapid deployments, topping 85% and 90% mid-band coverage respectively. 

On user experience, statistics from a leading service provider reveal 97% of all user activities on 5G mid-band achieved a time-to-content of less than 1.5 seconds, compared to 67% on 5G low-band and 38% on 4G (all bands). 

5G subscriptions in Southeast Asia stood at 61 million at the end of 2023. The 5G subscriber base in the region continues to grow as subscribers migrate to 5G, driven by more affordable 5G devices, promotional plans, discounts and large data bundles from service providers. 

Also, 5G subscriber base as a percentage of the total subscriber base has already reached over 20% in markets like Singapore, Australia, Thailand and Malaysia. 

Although 5G population coverage is growing, 5G mid-band is only deployed in around 25% of all sites globally outside of mainland China. The 5G mid-band spectrum provides a sweet spot between both coverage and capacity, while improving user experience. 

As 5G matures, the focus for many service providers is expected to shift toward developing differentiated connectivity offerings. 

Daniel Ode, Head of Ericsson Singapore, Philippines and Brunei said that service providers in the advanced 5G markets of Australia and Singapore continue to focus on innovations in speed, coverage and differentiated services. 

“Differentiated connectivity will give users, developers and enterprises the optimal level of connectivity at the right time for their needs, ensuring seamless performance and resource efficiency in the network,” said Ode.

“High-performing programmable networks, utilising 5G standalone (SA) architecture, provide new opportunities for service innovation and performance-based business models,” he added. 

Data traffic per smartphone user in Southeast Asia was pegged at 17GB per month in 2023.