The Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) has quantified the ongoing expansion of the international 5G ecosystem. In that regard, the organization is reporting that a total of 200 mobile operators had launched at least one commercial 5G network before the end of 2021.
Those networks spread across 78 countries all over the world. That number and the number of mobile operators that offer 5G services are expected to climb in the next few years. The GSA is reporting that 487 mobile operators in 145 countries have displayed interest in 5G technologies, and have already moved into the planning stages for their own 5G deployments. Some have acquired spectrum licenses, while others have held trials and installed technology that has not yet been activated for the general public.
That 487 figure is up from 412 mobile operators that were planning 5G networks at the end of 2020, which suggests that 5G is accelerating. The majority of those networks are still non-standalone 5G networks that are built on top of existing 4G infrastructure, though there is growing support for standalone (SA) 5G on the global stage. Twenty mobile operators have launched SA 5G networks in 16 countries, and another 99 mobile operators in 50 countries are reportedly investing in their own SA 5G capabilities.
Of course, the growing number of 5G networks creates a demand for 5G devices that can take advantage of the new technology. On that front, equipment manufacturers have announced 1,257 devices that support 5G connectivity, a figure that is more than double the 559 devices that had been announced at the end of 2020. That tally includes 614 5G smartphones, which is similarly up from 278 smartphones one year ago.
Eight hundred fifty-seven of those 1,257 devices have already made it to store shelves (335 were available last year). The total includes devices like tablets and wearables in addition to standard smartphones. The numbers would seem to indicate that the 5G market is accelerating, though industry analysts have noted that 5G availability has exceeded demand in the early stages of the rollout.
The GSMA has urged governments to make more mid-band spectrum available to mobile operators that want to launch 5G services. However, the FAA has created a 5G buffer zone around airports in the US due to fears that 5G could interfere with aircraft instruments. Those concerns could slow 5G development if other countries decide to follow suit.