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The fifth-generation wireless technology, commonly known as 5G, is one of the most important technological advancements of the past 10 years.
Promising lightning-fast speeds, ultra-low latency, and vast connectivity, the tech has the potential to revolutionise industries and enable a new era of innovation.
As of January 2023, there were 229 commercial 5G networks globally and over 700 5G smartphone models available to users.
But 5G connections are expected to double over the next two years, expedited by technological innovations and new 5G network deployments in more than 30 countries in 2023 alone.
While the rollout of 5G is now a global endeavour, several countries have emerged as leaders in the race to deploy and adopt this transformative technology.
In this list, we’ll be counting down the top 10 countries that are at the forefront of this 5G revolution, ranking each entry on the number of cities where 5G is available as of 2023.
France – 5G Available in 52 Cities
We kick off our list with France, a new player on the 5G scene whose networks have expanded drastically after years of delay and controversy. Known for its well-established ICT industry and the government's openness to new technologies, France has been preparing for the arrival of 5G over the past few years, initiating the transition to the new era of mobile phone standards.
Mobile operators in France have swiftly adapted to the arrival of 5G by setting up antennas and sites throughout the country. As of 2020, Orange had the highest number of 5G antennas being tested, while Free Mobile had the most 5G sites, particularly in the 700-800 MHz bandwidth. But while Cities like Marseille and Paris have seen significant progress in antenna deployment, 5G coverage remains uneven across the country, with many small towns and villages still yet to implement 5G networks. Regardless, around half of the population has shown interest in subscribing to 5G services once available, primarily for fast file downloads, data exchange, and the use of telehealth devices.
United Kingdom – 5G Available in 61 Cities
Next up we have the United Kingdom (UK), where the deployment of 5G technology promises to revolutionise various industries and enhance connectivity for businesses and individuals alike. The rollout of 5G in the UK began in 2019, with several cities, including London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Edinburgh being selected as early adopters to test the technology's capabilities. Mobile network operators such as EE, Vodafone, O2, and Three have been at the forefront of deploying these 5G networks across the country, investing heavily in infrastructure and conducting trials to get networks online.
The UK government has also played a crucial role in facilitating 5G deployment, providing support through policy initiatives, including the allocation of spectrum bands specifically for 5G use. It has also encouraged collaboration between network operators and local authorities to streamline the installation of infrastructure, such as small cells and antennas, across urban areas. With ongoing investments and collaboration between stakeholders, the UK is poised to reap the rewards of a fully connected 5G ecosystem in the near future.
Italy – 5G available in 65 cities
Italy has made significant strides in the deployment of 5G technology after auctioning 5G frequencies to major mobile telecom providers in 2018, generating 6.5 billion euros in revenue. By 2021, a significant portion of the country had access to 5G coverage. Urban areas enjoyed 5G availability approximately 17 per cent of the time, with average speeds of 128.5 Mbps, while rural areas had 5G coverage around 14 per cent of the time, with average speeds of 83.2 Mbps.
Italy has shown a strong commitment to investing in 5G technology, with projected costs for enhanced mobile broadband deployment expected to reach 8.5 billion euros by 2025. The ongoing roll-out of the 700Mhz 5G frequency, known for its wide coverage and capabilities, was completed at the end of 2022 and will cover 99 per cent of the Italian population. Meanwhile, the 3.5GHz 5G network, offering a balance between coverage and capacity, is projected to be fully launched by the end of this year, reaching approximately 46 per cent of the population. Providers like Telecom and Vodafone lead the way in terms of these deployments, accounting for the highest expenditure totalling around 4.8 billion euros. However, the adoption of 5G among Italian companies has been varied, with many exhibiting only minor or moderate interest and corresponding investment in the technology.
Japan – 5G available in 76 cities
In March 2020, Japan witnessed the introduction of commercial 5G mobile phone services by its major mobile carriers, NTT Docomo, KDDI, and SoftBank. The initial focus of this network deployment was on urban areas and heavily frequented locations, with the objective of achieving a population coverage of 90 per cent by 2025. However, in early 2022, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) modified the plan in consultation with the operators. The revised plan aimed to achieve a coverage of 95 per cent of the population by March 2024, emphasising the government's recognition of the tech’s significance. The revised plan also set a target of 99 per cent population coverage by 2031, demonstrating the high importance placed on 5G by the Japanese government.
Following the rollout of 5G, there has been a substantial increase in the number of subscriptions in Japan. By March 2022, the country had amassed over 45 million 5G subscriptions, indicating strong adoption and demand among consumers. This surge in subscriptions reflected the anticipation and excitement surrounding the benefits and capabilities offered by 5G technology, which is expected to contribute significantly to the digitalization of Japan's economy and society. Industries such as social infrastructure, the Internet of Things (IoT), and entertainment services like streaming and mobile gaming are poised to benefit greatly from the enhanced capabilities provided by 5G.
South Korea – 5G Available in 85 Cities
South Korea has emerged as a global leader in the telecommunications industry, ranking second only to Hong Kong in telecom market maturity. With a highly competitive and stable market supported by strong government backing, South Korea has been at the forefront of advanced infrastructure deployment in both fixed and mobile sectors. The country has also positioned itself as a pioneer in cutting-edge telecom technologies, including the development of 6G, and is home to renowned equipment manufacturers like Samsung and LG.
A major milestone for South Korea came in April 2019 when it became the first country to launch commercial 5G networks. Since then, the nation has achieved widespread 5G coverage, spanning an ever-increasing 85 cities. According to previous reports, Korean mobile operators have successfully deployed over 202,903 5G base stations as of February, which is equivalent to 23% of the total number of 4G LTE base stations installed in the country. By the end of March 2022, the number of 5G subscribers in South Korea surpassed 22 million, indicating a remarkable rate of 45%, all supported by an extensive network of 215,000 5G base stations. With its early adoption and rapid deployment of 5G technology, South Korea has positioned itself as a trailblazer in the telecom industry. The country's success in achieving widespread 5G coverage and a large subscriber base underscores its commitment to staying at the forefront of technological advancements.
Canada – 5G Available in 90 Cities
2020 marked a significant milestone in Canada’s telecommunications landscape with the official launch of 5G services across the country. Leading this introduction were prominent carriers like Rogers Communications, Bell Canada, and Telus, who each played a crucial role in bringing 5G technology to major cities and urban areas. Initially, the focus of 5G coverage centred around major cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Quebec City. But efforts have since been made to expand coverage to include more regions and cities, extending beyond urban areas to encompass smaller cities and rural regions. Canadian carriers utilise different frequencies for their 5G networks, including lower-frequency bands (sub-6 GHz) and higher-frequency bands (mmWave). The sub-6 GHz spectrum offers wider coverage, making it suitable for broader connectivity, while mmWave provides faster speeds but has a more limited coverage range.
The Canadian government recognises the crucial role of 5G in driving the country's economic growth and global competitiveness and has made significant investments in 5G research, development, and infrastructure to ensure Canada remains at the forefront of technological advancements. These investments aim to foster innovation, create new job opportunities, and enable industries to leverage the potential of 5G networks. 5G in Canada represents more than just a new generation of wireless technology – it is a transformative force that will shape the future of connectivity, innovation, and numerous industries. With its faster speeds, lower latency, greater capacity, and improved reliability compared to previous generations, 5G opens up a world of possibilities.
Philippines – 5G Available in 105 cities
The Philippines is making significant strides in the deployment of 5G technology, with Globe Telecom at the forefront of this transformative shift in the country's telecommunications landscape. As of the end of 2021, Globe had introduced 5G services in 29 towns and cities, bringing the benefits of this advanced network to a growing number of Filipinos. Globe Telecom's journey into 5G began in 2018 when it received approval from the Metro Manila Development Authority to launch commercial 5G services. The company subsequently rolled out a Non-Standalone 5G (NSA) network to 17 urban areas in 2020, providing coverage to over 80% of metro Manila by the year's end. This early deployment positioned Globe as a pioneer in delivering the benefits of 5G to the Filipino population.
To support its 5G expansion plans, Globe Telecom has invested a record $1.9 billion in capital expenditures in 2022. This substantial investment has enabled the deployment of close to 1.4 million fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) lines, the construction of 1,064 new cell sites, the upgrading of over 10,600 mobile sites to LTE, and the installation of 1,887 new 5G sites nationwide. These infrastructure enhancements are crucial for delivering faster speeds, lower latency, and improved connectivity to users. With Globe Telecom spearheading the deployment of 5G networks, Filipinos are experiencing faster speeds, lower latency, and increased capacity, unlocking new possibilities in various sectors. From enabling cutting-edge technologies like autonomous vehicles and smart cities to empowering telemedicine and revolutionizing mobile experiences, 5G is poised to shape the future of connectivity and drive digital transformation in the Philippines.
Finland – 5G Available in 137 cities
Finland has established itself as a big player in the telecommunications market in Europe with its focus on deploying cutting-edge technologies and early adoption of 5G spectrum auctions. With high broadband and mobile rates, Finland stands out in the region, offering customers access to advanced technologies such as DOCSIS3.1, LTE-A, 5G, and GPON fibre infrastructure. Supported by government initiatives, Finland aims to provide a minimum broadband speed of 100Mb/s to all residents by 2025. As of early 2021, 5G services were already available to over 40 per cent of the population, demonstrating strong uptake among subscribers, although LTE will continue to dominate in the short term.
Finland is served by three national network operators: Telia (part of the Telia Group, formerly known as Sonera), Elisa (offering prepaid packages under the Saunalahti brand), and DNA (operated by DNA Oyj, a part of the Telenor Group). These operators offer extensive coverage and high-speed connectivity across the country, even in remote and rural areas. Telia and DNA have collaborated to create a shared network called Yhteisverkko, covering over half of Finland's total geographical area and serving more than 15 per cent of the population. OpenSignal data from 2021 revealed that 5G was accessible to approximately 11% of Finns, boasting an average download speed of 200Mbps. Meanwhile, the networks' 4G availability was impressive, reaching around 93% with download speeds averaging 37Mbps.
China – 5G Available in 356 Cities
With its huge population and rapid technological advancements, China finds itself at the forefront of the global 5G revolution. The country is anticipated to lead the way in terms of 5G connections over the next five years, with market revenue expected to increase from 0.6 trillion yuan to over six trillion yuan throughout the decade. A significant factor contributing to the popularity of 5G in China is the innovation brought by Chinese tech giant Huawei. Known primarily for manufacturing smartphones, Huawei has dominated the 5G smartphone market within the country, investing heavily in cloud technologies and the necessary infrastructure to maintain its market leadership in the tech industry.
Internationally, Huawei has encountered obstacles in expanding its 5G presence due to concerns about national security. US sanctions have led the firm to lose of significant market share in the Chinese smartphone market, being overtaken by Apple and Vivo. Meanwhile, many countries have halted pilot projects or collaborations with Huawei and even announced bans on the company's participation in their local 5G infrastructure markets. Despite these international challenges, Huawei remains popular in China, with the population eagerly awaiting the transformative impact of 5G. The introduction of 5G-enabled smartphones to the market in the third quarter of 2019 was met with great enthusiasm, with shipments of between 10 and 20 million units every quarter in China. This surge in demand for 5G devices demonstrates the country's readiness to embrace the new technology and its potential to revolutionise communication and internet consumption patterns across the country.
United States – 5G Available in 503 Cities
The deployment of 5G networks in the United States has seen remarkable progress in recent years, with 503 cities now enjoying the benefits of this advanced technology. This represents a massive growth rate of 69 per cent compared to the previous year, positioning the US as the new global leader in the number of 5G cities around the world. This uptick highlights the rapid pace at which 5G networks are being deployed across the country. In contrast, China has maintained a static number of 356 cities with 5G networks since last year.
While the U.S. has overtaken China in terms of the number of cities with 5G, it's important to note that China still holds the lead in other crucial metrics. China outperforms the U.S. in data speeds, 5G subscribers, and the number of base stations deployed. These factors demonstrate that China's 5G infrastructure is more established and has achieved higher levels of adoption. Despite this, the growth of 5G networks in the U.S. is a significant achievement that demonstrates the country's commitment to technological advancement, and its competition with China only advances a global race for leadership in next-generation networks. Both countries building are momentum as they establish their dominance in this critical area, recognising the significant economic and technological advantages that come with being at the forefront of 5G innovation.
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