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Speed of 5G rollout in 2021 will hinge on extent of economic recovery

5G
(Image credit: Image Credit: Uverse internet)

Telecommunications operators are back on track when it comes to the expansion of 5G infrastructure, but short-term progress depends largely on how fast countries recover from the pandemic and economic downturn.

This is according to a new report from the GSM Association (GSMA), which states that 113 mobile operators have launched 5G networks in 48 different countries to date. Over the next five years, GSMA argues, the majority of telecommunication operator spending (80 percent/$890 billion) will go towards the expansion of 5G.

As for consumers, GSMA expects global adoption to hit 20 percent by 2025. Current leaders will keep their position at the front, with the majority of consumers coming from either the US, China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, the Gulf states, as well as parts of Europe.

GSMA believes that near-term adoption, however, hinges on the extent to which individual countries can recover from the economic consequences of the pandemic. Many consumers have had their salaries cut and some were even left without work, meaning their tech budgets have taken a serious hit.

What could help speed up the adoption, on the other hand, is the falling prices of 5G-enabled smartphones. The organization's global consumer trends survey showed that more than a third (37 percent) are planning to upgrade to 5G this year, up from 30 percent the year before.

However, 4G will remain the preferred mobile internet technology for years to come, and it is going to take quite some time (and convincing) for the majority of consumers to make the switch.