5G could roll out even more slowly than first thought

As Campaign warned more than a year ago, the superfast 5G network roll-out is likely to take several years despite marketing hype from telecoms brands.

5G: promotion in Chongqing, China (Shutterstock)
5G: promotion in Chongqing, China (Shutterstock)

The Cisco Annual Internet Report (2018-2023) contains a great deal of detail about all types of internet connections and devices, but there are two charts in particular that help put 5G into proper perspective.

Chart 1: global mobile device and connection growth

In 2023, Cisco predicts, 10.6% of devices or connections will be 5G. So, despite the high level of hype about 5G, it is not making a significant impact this year, or next year, or arguably in 2023. It will take time to roll out and reach critical mass.

Of course, 1.1 billion 5G connections by 2023 is a lot of fast connections. But the dawn of a 5G-enabled world is not coming as quickly as you might imagine, based on the level of press attention it has been attracting (although Campaign warned about how long the roll-out would take a year ago).

By all means companies should be thinking and planning ahead. But they shouldn't expect overnight transformation. Moreover, because roll-out predictions depend on companies making massive investments to buy the equipment and get it up and running, overall economic conditions play a role and the predictions could end up being optimistic. 

See also mobile connections by network type, 2023 regional percentage share:


Chart 2: global mobile average speeds by network type

This chart shows that 5G speeds will be 13 times higher than the average mobile connection by 2023. In this sense, the hype is very real. The speed 5G promises to deliver really will be transformative – it's a non-linear leap.

See also global mobile average speeds by device type:


At the same time, remember that chart two shows the highest possible connection speed. A given individual using 5G will see that speed. But when you look at the average speed of all types of connections across all smartphones, the boost 5G will contribute, while still impressive, is not quite so eye-popping.  

A version of this story was first published by Campaign Asia-Pacific

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