Ericsson has lowered its forecast for global growth in 5G subscribers, due to the weaker economic outlook and delays in spectrum auctions in several countries. It now expects 4.6 billion 5G subscriptions worldwide by the end of 2028, down from a previous estimate of 5 billion. 

The 5G market passed 1 billion subscriptions at the end of 2022 and continues to grow in all regions, with around 125 million subscriptions added in Q1, Ericsson said in its latest Mobility Report. The company expects the number to reach 1.5 billion by the end of 2023. However, 5G is not expected to become the dominant mobile technology until 2028, when it should pass 50 percent of all mobile subscriptions.

In the first quarter of 2023, 4G subscriptions continued to increase, growing by 59 million to 5.2 billion. 4G subscriptions are projected
to start declining from this year to around 3.8 billion by the end of 2028 as subscribers migrate to 5G. 3G subscriptions are already falling, down by 85 million in Q1, and GSM/EDGE-only subscriptions dropped by 59 million in the period. 

On the total mobile market, China, Bangladesh and Nigeria had the greatest net additions of subscriptions during the quarter, according to Ericsson’s data. Each country added 4 million mobile subscriptions in Q1. 

Quarterly data traffic up 7%

Ericsson’s report also looks at mobile data statistics. Total global traffic rose an estimated 7 percent from Q4 2022 to Q1 2023, to a monthly average of 126 EB. This means total traffic has almost doubled in the past two years, from 66 EB per month in Q1 2021. 

Fixed-wireless access over cellular networks is already generating a significant amount of that traffic. According to Ericsson, FWA represented 21 percent of global mobile data traffic at the end of 2022 and is projected to grow by a factor of nearly 6 to reach 143 EB in 2028, or about 30 percent of total mobile data traffic. 

The number of FWA connections is expected to triple over the same period, from 100 million at the end of 2022 to 300 million by the end of 2028. This represents 17 percent of all fixed broadband connections. Almost 80 percent of FWA connections are expected to be over 5G.

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