As 5G rollout continues worldwide, operators are encountering challenges related to subscribers, data traffic, price erosion, and more. Strategy Analytics released numerous reports highlighting global difficulties and how some countries are overcoming these 5G woes and preparing to continuously improve their 5G networks.
In South Korea and China, where 5G rollout is entering its third year, subscribers and traffic volume continue to increase. According to a Strategy Analytics report titled “Vendor Share: Global Handset Market by Technology: Q4 2020,” 5G accounted for 20.4 percent of mobile subscriptions in South Korea, generating 50.3 percent of cellular data traffic. As of March, the average monthly data usage of 5G subscribers was 26.66 GB, 2.9 times that of 4G. In China, data usage increased by 32 percent in 2020, with 5G tariff plan subscribers reaching 392 million by the end of March.
Regarding 5G smartphones, 128 million were sold globally in Q4 2020. 5G subscriptions grew by 4-8 percent in developing markets, with estimates increasing from 2.1 percent at the end of September 2020, to three percent by year’s end 2020.
In Germany, the largest smartphone market in Western Europe, a 5G phone became the quarterly top-selling model for the first time in Q4 2020. Additionally, a Strategy Analytics survey conducted on U.S. consumers showed that 75 percent of flagship buyers expected to purchase a 5G smartphone next. And in China, the 5G mobile phone shipment reached 69.8 million in Q1 2021, representing 71.3 percent of the total order, the highest yet.
According to another Strategy Analytics report, Wireless Operator Performance Benchmarking Q4 2020, global mobile data prices continue to erode. Mobile data revenue fell below $1 per GByte for the first time in Q4 2020, with revenue per GByte falling 88 percent over the last five years.
To remedy the price drop, some countries are engaging in alternative solutions, with trends detailed in Strategy Analytics report Mobile Data Revenue per Gigabyte Falls Below US$1 as 5G Ramps Up. South Korea operators are bundling various 5G applications (VR, AR, cloud gaming) into service plans to encourage customers to upgrade their tariff plans. In Finland, the model of speed-based price tiers on unlimited plans has been successful. These options differ from other countries’ common pricing structures where pricing is tiered by data volume rather than content or network experience.
Lastly, Strategy Analytics reported that Massive MIMO could improve 5G network coverage, enabling users to enjoy a more consistent experience across the network, even at the cell edge. Major infrastructure vendors are investing in the development of MIMO products, which include:
- Channel estimation
- Adaptive modulation and coding
At the recent Huawei Global Analyst Summit, Huawei mentioned the Adaptive High Resolution algorithms to improve massive MIMO performance in all three areas above. According to Huawei, the algorithms can improve a user’s average data rate by 35 percent and cell capacity by 50 percent.
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