Mobile Report Shows Global Shift to 4G

 A new mobile report by GSMA shows a rapid shift to mobile broadband, specifically 4G, across the globe, with half the global population expected to have 4G coverage by 2017.

4G global coverage

The GSMA Global Mobile Economy Report 2015 suggests that the global mobile industry is still growing rapidly, with 3.6 billion unique mobile subscribes at the end of last year. Five years ago only one in five people had a mobile subscription but this has now risen to half the global population and is expected to hit 60% by 2020. Currently almost 40% of global mobile connections use either 3G or 4G but this is expected to rise to around 70% by 2020.

In general there is a shift towards mobile broadband, particularly in developing countries, and the dominance of 2G is declining. The various reasons given in the report for the increased adoption of 3G and 4G are:

  • Availability and affordability of smartphones
  • More extensive and deeper network coverage
  • Operator handset subsidies

One trend highlighted in the report is that 4G is now being built out more rapidly than was the case with 3G. It took ten years for 3G networks to provide coverage to half of the world’s population, while 4G is expected to reach the same landmark within eight years. 2014 was a significant year for 4G with 335 networks deployed in 118 countries. Half of the world’s population will have 4G coverage by 2017 and this will rise to 63% by 2020.

Currently there is a bias in 4G network coverage towards developed countries, with 90% of people in these countries having 4G coverage. The U.S. is the most developed market and has the highest level of coverage at 97%, but European countries are catching up quickly. In the EU 24 out of the 28 countries have had spectrum auctions and assigned 800MHz band. Countries are seen as having ‘full’ coverage when they reach 95%, and in the developed world this is likely to have happened by 2020. 4G expansion into the developing world is currently just 15% but is picking up pace. 4G deployments in Latin America and Asia Pacific are likely to drive the global expansion of 4G in the next five years.

According to the report, “The world is seeing a rapid technology migration to both higher speed mobile broadband networks and the increased adoption of smartphones and other connected devices. Mobile broadband connections will account for almost 70% of the global base by 2020, up from just under 40% at the end of 2014. Smartphone adoption is already reaching critical mass in developed markets, with the devices now accounting for 60% of connections. It is the developing world—driven by the increased affordability of devices—that will produce most of the future growth, adding a further 2.9 billion smartphone connections by 2020.”

The report was put together by GSMA Intelligence and covers every operator group, network and MVNO in every country worldwide – from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Seen as the definitive source of mobile operator data, and often used as an industry reference point, the report includes insights drawn from tens of millions of data points which are updated on a daily basis.