China will have the most 5G connections of any nation by 2025, while Europe will lag behind South Korea, the United States, Japan, and China in terms of 5G penetration by that year, according to a new study.
The London-based international mobile trade association GSMA forecasts that China will have 600 million 5G connections in five years' time, compared with 209 million in Europe, 188 million in the US, 98 million in Japan, and 41 million in South Korea.
These five economies will account for more than 70 percent of global 5G connections in 2025. In terms of unique subscribers, or individuals who might account for more than one connection, there will be around 450 million 5G users in China by 2025, the study said.
5G is the fifth generation of network technology. It is expected to bring unprecedented speeds to internet users, with some operations running 10 times faster than on 4G networks. 5G is also expected to unlock potential in a host of new services, including artificial intelligence, robotics, self-driving cars, and the internet of things.
GSMA noted that China's three major mobile operators－China Unicom, China Mobile, and China Telecom－are already moving ahead with 5G deployments. While most nations will roll out 5G by updating existing infrastructure, the study noted that China also plans on building part of its 5G networks from scratch.
"One of the major distinguishing factors between Chinese operators and those in the rest of the world is an intention to deploy brand new stand-alone 5G networks," said GSMA. "The high cost underlines China's seriousness about paying whatever it takes for the gold standard."
South Korea will lead the world in terms of 5G penetration by 2025, when 66 percent of the nation's total connections will be 5G, according to GSMA. This compares to 50 percent in the US, 49 percent in Japan, 36 percent in China, 30 percent in Europe, and a global average of 18 percent.
Out of the five economies leading on 5G, Europe will have the lowest penetration by 2025, as the region is moving more slowly in rolling out its 5G networks.
The GSMA says that the European Commission is "eager to spearhead the development of 5G", with the objective of regaining technological leadership ceded to the US and China over the last 10 years.
"However, business sentiment remains challenged by a combination of low growth, political uncertainty and stubbornly punitive regulation," the report said.
In the United Kingdom, mobile operators have warned that a mooted ban on network equipment from Chinese telecommunications company Huawei could lead to an 18 to 24-month delay to the widespread availability of 5G and cost the economy between 4.5 billion pounds ($5.8 billion) and 6.8 billion pounds.
The UK is under pressure from the US to boycott Huawei over alleged security concerns. Earlier this month, UK Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan said the government will delay its decision on Huawei restrictions until after the nation's general election on Dec 12.
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