In Brief
CSS Insights predicts 1 billion people will be using 5G connections by 2023, with China accounting for half of all 5G users as early as 2022. 5G adoption is expected to be faster than 4G, but several factors could impede its progress.

From 4G to 5G

The creation and subsequent adoption of 5G is seemingly inevitable, and like 4G, it will eventually become the leading mobile connection. That said, when the next generation of mobile technology arrives, it won’t be the U.S. or Japan leading the world in 5G users. It will be China.

That’s according to a report published by CSS Insight this week. The mobile industry analysts predict that 1 billion people will be using 5G connections by 2023, with China accounting for more than half of all 5G users as early as 2022. The country is expected to maintain a sizable hold until 2025, when it may still represent 40 percent of global 5G connections.

“China will dominate 5G thanks to its political ambition to lead technology development, the inexorable rise of local manufacturer Huawei, and the breakneck speed at which consumers have upgraded to 4G connections in the recent past,” Marina Koytcheva, VP Forecasting at CCS Insight, told CNBC.

While China will take the lead in 5G users, the analysts predict South Korea, Japan, or the U.S. will launch the first commercial 5G network, with Europe trailing behind by at least a year.

Changing Connections

While CCS Insight expects 1 billion people to utilize 5G by 2023, they don’t foresee it having a dramatic presence in the Internet of Things (IoT). How it will affect autonomous cars is also unknown, with CSS stating that such “mission critical” services will “have to wait even longer to come to the fore.”

There are also a number of uncertainties related to 5G’s overall adoption, including factors like how and where network operators will deploy new base stations, the lack of clear business cases for operators, and consumers’ willingness to upgrade their smartphones. If people aren’t buying new devices that take advantage of 5G, why continue investing in it?

Europe is expected to face its own set of problems stemming from market fragmentation, the availability of spectrum, and the influence of regulators.

Of course, a 5G network doesn’t even exist yet, and CSS Insights’ predictions on 5G users won’t come into play for several years. However, development on 5G is ramping up.

Last year, AT&T began work on 5G mobile networks, and Nokia started on the development of 5G network infrastructure in April. Qualcomm Technologies is also worth keeping an eye on as they just successfully tested a 5G data connection on a 5G modem chipset.