5G is expected to reach 130 million subscriptions in the MENA region by 2026, representing 15% of total mobile subscriptions. These forecasts are included in the November 2020 edition of the Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) Mobility Report, along with projections for data traffic growth, and regional subscriptions. The report reiterates the importance of timely licensing of harmonized spectrum that is suitable for 4G and 5G. This is considered as a crucial requirement to accelerate technology adoption and achieve early mass market services and applications.
As the demand for capacity and coverage of cellular networks continues to grow, service providers are expected to continue investing in their networks to cater for this uptake and meet evolving consumer requirements. Commercial 5G deployments have taken place in the region during 2019 and 2020 with 5G subscriptions forecast reach close to 1.4 million by the end of 2020, mainly in the Gulf countries.
Fadi Pharaon, President of Ericsson Middle East and Africa says: “This latest edition of our Mobility Report highlights the fundamental need for good connectivity as a cornerstone for this change as the demand for capacity and coverage of cellular networks continues to grow. Investing in network infrastructure and optimizing spectrum assignments to deliver expansive 5G connectivity are critical requirements to consider in this journey to herald a new era of end-user applications and devices. We will continue to invest in our technology leadership and offer our state-of-the art infrastructure solutions to help our customers seize the opportunities that 5G will bring to the region.”
The MENA region is expected to have the highest growth in monthly mobile data usage during the forecast period, increasing total mobile data traffic by a factor of almost 7 between 2020 and 2026. The average data per smartphone is expected to reach 30GB per month in 2026.
In the MENA region, around 30 percent of mobile subscriptions are estimated to be for LTE at the end of 2020. The region is anticipated to evolve over the forecast period, and by 2026, almost 80 percent of subscriptions are expected to be for mobile broadband, with LTE as the dominant technology with more than 50 percent of the subscriptions.
Service providers offering Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) on the rise
Middle East and Africa is a region with limited broadband connectivity. The report estimates that there will be around 65 million broadband connections by the end of 2020, representing a total household penetration of around 18 percent. Out of these broadband connections, FWA is estimated to represent around 20 percent.
There are several examples of service providers in this region that are successful in meeting the large demand for broadband connectivity.
Most of the FWA offerings in this region are 4G based, according to the report. However, there is a growing number of 5G FWA offerings in the Middle East, complementing the 4G FWA offerings.
FWA is projected to grow more than threefold, reaching around 35 million connections by 2026 and representing around 35 percent of all broadband connections in the region.
Sustainable leadership in network performance
At about 45 percent, the region has the highest proportion of quality-led service providers. Service providers with a quality-led approach successfully execute their strategies to build a network performance gap, having significantly better results in terms of downlink and uplink speeds as well as lower latency.