Europe, being one of the most developed and affluent regions in the world, will play a key role in the widespread 5G rollout. Europe is at the forefront of smart cities, campus lab testing, sustainability, and telecommunications innovation, not to mention the consumers, manufacturers, and various industrial enterprises that seek an improved mobile experience and/or must run automated systems on a private network. Each of these applications, among many others, will use 5G coverage as the backbone for myriad use cases.
This post provides a broad overview of how 5G services have been embraced in Europe and what future rollouts will look like. The post contains market forecast data and some charts to help you visualize the European 5G space.
How Many 5G Subscribers Are in Europe?
By the end of 2022, there will be 83.1 million 5G subscriptions across Europe, which is still galaxies away from the 670.4 million 4G/Long Term Evolution (LTE) subscriptions for the same year. However, by 2026, 5G services will overtake 4G/LTE on the European continent—when 502.2 million 5G subscribers are expected. By 2027, that number will reach nearly 593 million 5G subscriptions across Europe.
These market data, pulled from ABI Research’s Network Technology and Market Tracker, include the vast majority of European nations that have launched 5G services, including the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
So, which countries account for the most 5G subscriptions in Europe?
Today, Germany leads the way in Europe in terms of 5G subscribers (22.6 million), followed by the United Kingdom (14.6 million). By 2026, that will all change when Russia is expected to surpass Germany with 100 million 5G subscriptions, compared to the latter’s 90.1 million subscriptions. Below is a fuller breakdown of the 5G services situation by 2027, the end of the forecast period, in terms of subscriptions:
- 128.4 million 5G subscribers in Russia
- 100.7 million 5G subscribers in Germany
- 67.7 million 5G subscribers in the United Kingdom
- 57.9 million 5G subscribers in Italy
- 55.2 million 5G subscribers in France
- 42.2 million 5G subscribers in Turkey
- 40.3 million 5G subscribers in Spain
The following chart shows the five European countries leading the way in 5G adoption between 2022 and 2027.
5G Traffic Volume in Europe
Using the same countries analyzed in the first section, this section explores the amount of 5G mobile data traffic generated in Europe.
As of 2022, Europe’s 27.1 exabytes of 5G mobile data traffic is a little over half of the data traffic used in the United States (50.1 exabytes). Here, Italy and Finland come out on top, with 4.75 exabytes and 4.2 exabytes of traffic load, respectively. By 2027, the amount of mobile data traffic generated over European 5G networks will total 312.4 exabytes, with the following top five countries leading the region:
- Germany (55.2 exabytes)
- Italy (51.2 exabytes)
- United Kingdom (48.8 exabytes)
- France (29.7 exabytes)
- Finland (24.7 exabytes)
- Poland (24.2 exabytes)
European Deployments Involving 5G Spectrum
In addition to market data, ABI Research has paid close attention to numerous 5G spectrum projects that have been undertaken in Europe. The following are some of the publicly announced private 5G deployments that we took note of in 2022, as part of the Shared Spectrum and Private Networks Tracker report.
- Licensee Teracom AGA set up 4G and 5G trials in Sweden in multiple locations for the public sector using the 2300 MHz spectrum.
- As noted by SmartCitiesWorld, the University of Sunderland and BAI Communications struck an alliance to develop the first 5G-supported university in the United Kingdom.
- Croatian automotive manufacturer AD Plastik teamed up with Nokia and OIV to develop the first industrial 5G Standalone (SA) architecture network running on a private wireless network campus in the small European nation.
- Finland-based Nokia also partnered with Telia and Digita to create a private 5G network for local energy company Posiva Oy in Eurajoki. The mobile network will be crucial for automating the nuclear disposal process.
- The first smart city 5G SA testing in Hamburg, Germany was made possible at Dataport’s lab with the support of O2 Telefónica and network technology provider Ericsson.
For more 5G trends, read our 2023 technology trends paper.
West Far Ahead of East
As noted in the 5G Mobile Devices, Features, and Technologies: Vendors, Trends, and Forecasts report, a total of 107.8 million 5G handset devices will ship in Europe by the time 2022 concludes, which covers everything from smartphones to tablets. That number will steadily grow through 2027—when 197.4 million 5G-capable devices will ship for the year. These market forecasts include both 5G Classic and 5G-Advanced, the latter not seeing shipments until 2024.
As the chart above goes to show, of the nearly 108 million 5G mobile devices that shipped in 2022, 90.1 million (84%) come from Western Europe. The remainder of device shipments come from the Eastern portion of the continent. By 2027, Eastern Europe will chip away at the overall regional 5G market when it accounts for 60.1 million (30%) of the 197.4 million 5G mobile devices shipped that year on the continent.
Moreover, 81.3 million (85%) of these devices run on the sub-6 GHz spectrum band and 14.4 million (15%) run on 5G sub-6 GHz + Millimeter Wave (mmWave). However, mmWave will see significant growth in the coming years and will be found in half of all 5G mobile devices shipped in 2027.
Steady 5G Growth Expected Across Europe
5G, while a small slice of the European market pie now, is on track to dominate across the continent. Consumers and enterprises naturally gravitate toward faster, more reliable cellular networks like any other technology. These 5G deployments will not only be beneficial for consumers and enterprises, but they will also be crucial to authorities/governments for enhancing public safety, improving university campuses, and implementing sustainable technology deployments. While Europe represents just 9% of all 5G subscriptions worldwide in 2022, expect that number to soar to 19%—nearly one out of every five subscriptions worldwide by 2027.
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