North America leads the world in 4G and smartphone adoption and is expected to migrate rapidly to 5G networks and services, according to a new GSMA study.
The latest edition of the GSMA’s flagship Mobile Economy series, published at Mobile World Congress Americas this week, forecasts that smartphones connected to 4G networks will account for four out of five mobile connections in North America by 2020, a higher proportion than any other global region. The report also predicts that the mobile ecosystem’s contribution to the North American economy will increase to more than $1 trillion by 2020, equivalent to almost five per cent of regional GDP.
“The successful large-scale rollouts of 4G networks across the US and Canada, alongside strong consumer take-up of 4G-capable smartphones, has established North America as one of the most advanced mobile regions in the world, on a par with the most advanced markets in Europe and Asia,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “North American mobile subscribers are also highly engaged digital consumers, using their smartphones to access a broad range of services and content – and are set to become early adopters of 5G services in areas such as ultra-HD video, AR/VR, artificial intelligence and autonomous driving.”
5G to Account for Half of North American Mobile Market by 2025
There were 291 million unique mobile subscribers in North America at the end of last year, representing 80 per cent of the region’s population, a figure expected to increase to 313 million (84 per cent) by 2020. These consumers are characterised by high levels of mobile engagement and expenditure, which contributed to a nine-fold increase in mobile data traffic between 2012 and 2016 in the US. In revenue terms, North America is estimated to be a $250 billion market this year, accounting for more than a fifth of global operator revenue.
The region is also a benchmark for rapid migration to next-generation devices and networks. At the end of 2016, North America had the highest smartphone and 4G adoption rates of any region worldwide, at 78 per cent and 63 per cent, respectively – forecast to grow to 81 per cent and 84 per cent by 2020. By that point, operators in both the US and Canada are expected to have launched 5G networks and, by 2025, around half of the region’s connections are expected to be running on 5G, a considerably greater share than other key 5G global regions. In the US, fixed wireless will be the initial use case for early 5G deployments, with full standardised 5G services expected to follow in 2019.
Mobile Ecosystem Contributing to Economic Growth, Jobs and Public Funding
In 2016, mobile technologies and services generated $790 billion of economic value added in North America, equivalent to 3.9 per cent of GDP3. By the end of the decade, this contribution is forecast to increase to $1.02 trillion (4.7 per cent of GDP) as greater use of mobile technologies, including M2M and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, drive improvements in productivity. North America’s mobile ecosystem also supported 2.5 million jobs in 2016 and made a $110 billion contribution to the public sector via taxation.
The new report also outlines how North America is leading developments in the IoT ecosystem, with mobile operators playing a leading role via acquisitions, network developments and the provision of IoT services. According to Machina Research (August 2017), the number of IoT connections will increase fourfold between 2016 and 2025 in North America, reaching nearly 6 billion by that point. In the US, all four main operators have either already launched or are committed to launching Mobile IoT networks using licensed spectrum.