The rollout of 5G technology will proceed at blistering pace, with the number of subscriptions in Asia and North America set to exceed 1-billion units by the technology’s fifth year of deployment, nearly triple the total for 4G during the same time period.

By Elias Aravantinos, principal analyst of IHS Markit

Starting from a negligible level this year, 5G subscribers in the Asia Pacific and North America regions will soar to 1,1-billion units by 2023. In contrast, 4G’s subscriber base in the two regions amounted to just 417-million units in 2014 five years after that technology’s initial deployment.

Several factors will contribute to 5G’s rapid rise, including the early availability of a large number of compatible devices.

“During 4G’s first year of launch, there were only three smartphones available to consumers that supported the standard,” said Elias Aravantinos, principal analyst at IHS Markit. “On the other hand, 5G boasts at least 20 smartphone designs available for release to the market this year. This demonstrates the high degree of market readiness for 5G, and its capability to attain high volumes more quickly than 4G.”

While North America initially will lead the world in terms of 5G installed base, the Asia-Pacific region will rise rapidly and surpass it in 2021. By 2023, Asia Pacific will have a 5G installed base of 785-million, dwarfing the 294-million total for North America.

“Asia Pacific is destined for 5G market domination thanks to the massive deployment of the technology in China and India,” Aravantinos says. “Led by deployment in these countries, 5G will reach its so-called ‘golden year” in 2023, when 5G will be present in most handsets.”

A raft of 5G-enabled smartphones will be introduced or have already been rolled out in 2019. In North America and Asia, 5G phones on the market this year include the Motorola Moto Z3 with the 5G Moto Mod, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and the LG V50 5G. In Europe, 5G models will include the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G, the Oppo Reno 5G, the OnePlus 7 Pro and the Huawei Mate 20 X and Mate X.

In addition to the ready availability of phones, 5G demand will be stimulated by its compelling capabilities.

While today’s 4G phones often require data buffering that slows down performance, 5G smartphones will be able to perform such tasks instantaneously. With today’s 4G LTE service, downloading a high-definition movie might take 10 minutes, but with 5G technology this could take a matter of seconds. In practice, these faster speeds will allow for the seemingly instant transfer of data.

The lower latency of 5G will substantially reduce lag and help improve streaming applications like online gaming, video calling, and interactive live sports experiences, among others.