Ericsson says forecasts for cellular IoT connections have nearly doubled since November 2017, and are now expected to reach an estimated 3.5 billion in 2023 – driven by ongoing large-scale deployments in China.
Mobile operators have launched more than 60 cellular IoT networks worldwide using these technologies over the same underlying LTE network to support diverse use cases.
In North America, these cases are centred on logistics and fleet management, while in China the focus is on smart cities and smart agriculture.
The deployment meant that Telstra now offers Narrowband coverage in major Australian cities and many regional towns, in addition to the around three million square kilometres of Cat M1 IoT coverage it turned on in 2017.
And Ericsson says North America is expected to lead the 5G uptake, with all major US operators planning to roll out 5G between late 2018 and mid-2019.
Ericsson also predicts that 20% of global mobile data traffic worldwide will be on 5G networks in 2023 – 1.5 times more than the total 4G/3G/2G traffic today.
By end of 2023, close to 50% of all mobile subscriptions in North America are forecast to be for 5G, followed by North East Asia at 34% , and Western Europe at 21%.
Globally, major 5G deployments are expected from 2020, with Ericsson forecasting over a billion 5G subscriptions for enhanced mobile broadband by the end of 2023, accounting for around 12% of all mobile subscriptions.
Mobile data traffic is estimated to surge by a factor of eight during the forecast period, to reach close to 107 exabytes (EB) per month – a figure that Ericsson says is equal to every mobile subscriber in the world streaming full HD video for 10 hours.
Like previous mobile access technologies, Ericsson says 5G is expected to be deployed first in dense urban areas with enhanced mobile broadband and fixed wireless access as the first commercial use cases.
Other use cases will come from industries such as automotive, manufacturing, utilities, and healthcare.
Fredrik Jejdling, Ericsson’s executive vice-president and head of business area networks, says, “2018 is the year 5G networks go commercial as well as for large-scale deployments of cellular IoT. These technologies promise new capabilities that will impact people’s lives and transform industries”.
“This change will only come about through the combined efforts of industry players and regulators aligning on spectrum, standards and technology.”
Ericsson says first-generation, 5G data-only devices are expected from the second half of 2018, and the first commercial smartphones supporting 5G in the mid-bands are expected early next year, while support for very high spectrum bands is expected in early to mid-2019.