The fastest-ever growth in mobile technology was that of LTE, according to Ericsson. But it will be eclipsed by the growth of 5G over the next five years. The company estimates that by 2024, there will be 1.5 billion subscriptions to 5G connections worldwide, covering 40 percent of the world population.
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This is all part of the yearly Ericsson Mobility Report. The 2018 report includes the online, interactive Ericsson Mobility Visualizer, which was used to create the chart above. It indicates just where 5G and LTE are headed in North America. By mid-2023, they'll be equals for a short time before 5G subscriptions overtake LTE. (Note that this is specifically on smartphones.)
5G's ascension that year won't happen in other areas of the world, though. Even in Northeast Asia, LTE will still be ahead of 5G in five years, but the gap will probably close in that region shortly thereafter.
Regarding the worldwide numbers, LTE's big lead will hold, with 5.4 billion subscribers expected in 2024 compared to the 1.5 billion 5G subscriptions expected. But that's still explosive growth for 5G.
The total number of global mobile subscriptions in the third quarter of 2018 was 7.9 billion, from adding 120 million new users in just those three months. Year to year, the growth worldwide was 3 percent, with the most users added in China with 37 million new mobile phone users. (North America added only 2 million new users, in comparison.) Ericsson says China's growth is caused by the carriers there that are duking it out intensely to get people to sign up.
And here's some fun math: the penetration of mobile subscriptions (of all technologies) versus the population is 104 percent globally in the third quarter of 2018. It's as high as 142 percent in Central and Eastern Europe. This is because there are more phones in use than there are people.
Ericsson also breaks down some data to show the mobile subscriptions (of all technologies, even going back to CDMA) used on smartphones versus feature phones versus PCs/tablets/routers. The latter has always had flat growth when it comes to mobile subscriptions, which is not surprising. Smartphones overtook feature phones back in 2016 and have never looked back.
If you're curious about what the Ericsson data could reveal about the smartphone and wireless carrier market, visit the Mobility Visualizer yourself.