Mobility

4G and 5G mobile networks will add $1 trillion to North America's economy by 2020

5G technologies are expected to create three million jobs, according to a new report from GSMA released at Mobile World Congress Americas.

North America leads the world in 4G and smartphone adoption, and will likely make the shift to 5G rapidly, according to a new report from GSMA, published on Tuesday at Mobile World Congress Americas in San Francisco.

By 2020, four out of five mobile connections in North America will be smartphones connected to 4G networks—a higher proportion than any other region across the globe, the report found. The mobile ecosystem's contribution to the North American economy will increase to more than $1 trillion by 2020—nearly 5% of the region's GDP.

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"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, in a press release. "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."

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At the end of 2016, North America had 291 million unique mobile subscribers, representing 80% of the region's population. That number is expected to increase to 313 million, or 84%, by 2020, the report noted. In the US, mobile data traffic increased nine-fold between 2012 and 2016, and North America is estimated to be a $250 billion market this year.

The mobile ecosystem is expected to continue contributing to economic growth, jobs, and public funding, the report stated. In 2016, mobile technologies and services generated $790 billion in economic value added in North America, representing 3.9% of GDP. By 2020, this contribution is expected to reach $1.02 trillion, or 4.7% of the GDP, driven by IoT and M2M solutions. The mobile ecosystem in North America created 2.5 million jobs in 2016, and made a $110 billion contribution to the public sector via taxation, the report stated.

North America is also expected to continue its rapid adoption of next-generation devices and networks, the report stated. In 2016, the region had the highest smartphone adoption (78%) and 4G adoption (63%) rates of any region worldwide—expected to grow to more than 80% each by 2020. By that year, operators in both the US and Canada are expected to have launched 5G, and by 2025, about half of the region's connections will likely be running in 5G.

Fixed wireless will be the initial use case for early 5G deployments in the US, with full standardized 5G services expected to be implemented by 2019, the report noted.

"If 4G changed our lives, 5G will change society," said Granryd during a keynote address at MWCA. Mobile plays a critical role in addressing the United Nations' sustainability goals, he added. "5G is a giant step forward for digitizing societies," Mat said.

Ten years ago, the mobile revolution was launched due to two factors: The invention of the iPhone, and the introduction of 3G. "Both the iPhone and 3G changed everything," said Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC, in a keynote talk at MWCA. "Innovation in devices combined with innovation in networks started the mobile revolution. In 2017, we find ourselves nearing another big moment. We've seen remarkable progress, but we're waiting for another breakthrough. 5G could be it."

"The race to lead the world in 5G is on, and the competition is intense," said Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CEO of CTIA, during a keynote talk at MWCA. China will conduct more than 100 5G trials this year, and South Korea and Japan are moving forward on 5G trials as well in preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

"Every country knows wireless leadership creates jobs, investments, and innovation," Attwell Baker said. "They're taking action because they want to win. We do too."

The US created two million jobs last year, Attwell Baker said. But 5G alone will create another three million jobs, and will add half a trillion dollars to the US economy. "When we get 5G right, it will transform our economy," she added. But realizing these goals will need buy in from every level of government, and action by states, mayors, and Congress on infrastructure. The FCC also must give clear directions to localities to promote investment, Attwell Baker said.

Want to use this data in your next business presentation? Feel free to copy and paste these top takeaways into your next slideshow.

  • By 2020, four out of five mobile connections in North America will be smartphones connected to 4G networks—a higher proportion than any other region across the globe. -GSMA, 2017
  • The mobile ecosystem's contribution to the North American economy will increase to more than $1 trillion by 2020—nearly 5% of the region's GDP. -GSMA, 2017
  • 5G will create another three million jobs, and will add half a trillion dollars to the US economy alone. -CTIA, 2017
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About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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