Analyst firm Juniper Research reckons operator-billed 5G service revenue will reach $315 billion in 2023.

Since those revenues are expected to hit $195 billion this year, that would mark a 60% annual increase. The main reason for this growth seems simply to be the upgrade of contracts based on legacy generations, which is a no-brainer for most subscribers since no premium is being charged for 5G. Juniper forecasts that over 600 million new 5G subscriptions will be created next year.

All this rapid growth will mean that over a third (35%) of operator total revenue will be derived from 5G services next year. It’s worth noting that Juniper has factored in an anticipated global recession next year, judging that progress in the telecoms industry is highly resilient to macroeconomic headwinds. That assumption seems justified when you reflect on how it did during the pandemic. The report also talks of 5G SA enabling network slicing and private networks but doesn’t go so far as to attach anticipated revenue figures to those opportunities.

“Despite the growth of the Internet of Things, revenue from consumer connections will continue to be the cornerstone of 5G operator revenue increase,” said research co-author Olivia Williams. “Over 95% of global 5G connections in 2027 will be connected personal devices such as smartphones, tablets and mobile broadband routers.”

While that kind of growth seems like great news on the surface, it doesn’t necessarily indicate the telecoms industry is reaping significant returns from its 5G investments. Subscriber upgrades that are essentially free don’t represent any new revenue, merely the reallocation of existing pools. Recent research by another analyst house, Omdia, forecasts ARPUs will continue to fall despite all this apparent progress, so it seems the riddle of how to monetise 5G has yet to be solved.

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