The coronavirus pandemic has stifled progress in many areas. But one technology that has continued to grow in the face of the pandemic is 5G. A report released Wednesday by industry trade group 5G Americas tracks the growth of 5G rollouts.
SEE: Future of 5G: Projections, rollouts, use cases, and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
The number of active 5G connections around the world hit 63.6 million as of the first quarter of 2020, a jump of 308% from the last quarter of 2019, according to data from research firm Omdia. There are now 82 5G commercial networks in the world, a level expected to more than double to 206 by the end of the year, according to research from TeleGeography. Further, more than 100 commercial 5G device models are now available, according to the Ericsson Mobility June 2020 Report, with many offering support for low-band, mid-band, and millimeter (mmWave) frequency bands.
Among specific regions, North America had 1.18 million 5G connections at the end of the first quarter, a gain of 591,000 5G connections from the previous quarter. Over the same time, Latin America and the Caribbean saw 3,004 5G subscriptions, a gain of 142%. However, 5G adoption in Latin America and the Caribbean has been hampered by the coronavirus.
“The impact of COVID-19 is finally being felt by Latin America’s and Caribbean’s telecom industry,” Jose Otero, vice president of Latin America and Caribbean for 5G Americas, said in a press release. “The decrease in remittances arriving from Europe and North America together with the mandatory lockdowns imposed by many regional governments decreased the purchasing power of a large percentage of the population.”
SEE: Hiring Kit: 5G Wireless System Engineer (TechRepublic Premium)
To combat the effects of the coronavirus, some governments in Latin America and the Caribbean have adjusted the taxes and terms required by communications services.
“The lack of devices due to global logistic obstacles has resulted in negative subscriber growth and slower uptake of newer technologies,” Otero said. “It is expected that until the situation normalizes all spectrum assignment processes would be delayed and that no new networks would be launched during this period.”
Globally, the number of 5G connections are projected to reach 238 million by the end of 2020, with North America accounting for 10 million of them, according to Kristin Paulin, senior analyst at Omdia. Latin America and the Caribbean will account for an additional 270,000 connections. Paulin said she expects growth to pick up over the second half of 2020 as coronavirus lockdowns ease, 5G networks expand, and more 5G devices become available.