North America surge drives global 5G connections to two-billion mark

After finding that the industry had a 2023 of “unprecedented” growth and innovation leading to a total of 1.76 billion 5G connections through the year, research firm 5G Americas has reported that the momentum has carried through into the first quarter of 2024, with the 5G wireless telecommunications industry experiencing another quarter of strong expansion and technological advancement driven by the relentless advance of 5G technology.

Working with analyst Omdia, the telecoms research firm found that in the first quarter of 2024, global adoption of 5G connections continued its steady climb, reaching nearly two billion with an addition of 185 million new connections. North America was seen to be leading the charge in 5G adoption, with 5G connections in the region comprising 32% of all wireless cellular connections. Notably, the region experienced healthy growth in the first quarter, adding 22 million new connections to operator networks. In the first quarter of 2024, North American 5G connections totalled 220 million.

The research also showed there are currently 316 commercial 5G networks worldwide, a number that’s expected to grow alongside continued significant investments in 5G infrastructure worldwide. In addition, the number of deployed 5G networks has exceeded the pace of 4G LTE network deployments at the equivalent time in the technology cycle. Even though there are at present 712 global 4G LTE deployments, the data showed there are nearly as many 5G North American deployments, 17, as 4G LTE networks, at 18.

Last quarter, Latin America also witnessed solid growth in 4G LTE and 5G connections, adding eight million new LTE connections for a total of 591 million across the region. Additionally, the region continues to embrace the 5G revolution, with nine million new 5G connections added to reach a total of 48 million 5G connections. 4G LTE subscriptions continue to remain strong throughout the region, even as the availability of 5G handsets and spectrum continue to grow.

Commenting on the research, 5G Americas president Chris Pearson said: “The wireless technology sector continues to demonstrate its strength and significance through rapid adoption and sustained robust growth globally. North America remains at the forefront of 5G implementation.

“North America is swiftly moving to a region of essentially only LTE and 5G, with most operators having closed their legacy networks already,” said Omdia principal analyst Kristin Paulin. “On top of that, vast 5G coverage and devices at a range of price points helps drive 5G adoption.”

Jose Otero, vice-president of Latin America and the Caribbean for 5G Americas, said: “5G keeps accelerating as the increasing number of operators offering the technology continues to expand the population coverage of their networks in urban and suburban areas, while 4G continues its expanding presence in rural and remote areas, helping governments fulfil their national connectivity goals.”

Going forward, Omdia forecasts paint a picture of the telecommunications landscape with global 5G connections projected to reach 7.7 billion by 2028, with North America forecast to boast 700 million 5G connections by the same year. The internet of things (IoT) ecosystem is also expected to have more of a role in driving 5G adoption, and will continue to remain a fundamental component of the digital revolution.

Currently, global IoT subscriptions stand at 3.3 billion, complemented by 6.7 billion smartphone subscriptions. Forecasts suggest that IoT subscriptions will reach five billion, while smartphone subscriptions will surge to eight billion by 2028, highlighting, said the research, the evolving nature of connectivity and the interconnectedness of our digital world.

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