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The year 2020 was the year of 5G – with global launches and global subscribes both spiking rapidly throughout the year. As COVID-19 induced lockdowns and restrictions kept people indoors, a fast network kept them connected, and here 5G played a major role in helping people work, study and stay entertained. By Q3-2020, there were nearly 228.7 million 5G subscribers globally, representing 2.44% of the entire global mobile market. 5G subscriptions were expected to reach 236 million globally by the end of 2020 and are expected to breach the 3 billion mark by 2025.

With such a staggering growth trajectory, the experience that users get over 5G becomes front and centre. Here too, 5G does not fail to disappoint. In particular, the GCC region emerged as the front runner in delivering exceptional 5G experiences for local consumers. On average, 5G delivered download bandwidth of 207 Mbps globally. However, each of the GCC nations delivered speeds in excess of this global average. These speeds represented a significant increase over the 4G experience, and thus justified the user interest in taking up 5G.

5G Global Subscriptions Forecast (2020-25)

5G Performance in GCC Nations (Q3-2020)

Source: https://www.speedtest.net/insights/blog/world-5g-report-2020/

In fact, four of the six GCC nations featured in a recent list of the top nine nations for 5G download speeds. Furthermore, the cities of Abu Dhabi and Riyadh took top honors in one ranking of capital cities across the globe.

Top 9 Nations Globally Ranked by 5G Experience

Top 9 Global Capitals Ranked by 5G Experience

Source: https://www.speedtest.net/insights/blog/world-5g-report-2020/

Looking ahead and as 5G users increase rapidly, telecom operators that have strong network coverage will realize superior outcomes and more stable data rates. One case in point is from South Korea’s capital, Seoul. The city has ranked at the top spot on the 5G experience rankings for iPhone 12s. There, 5G population coverage is about 90% (estimated in June 2020), which has been critical to excellent user experiences. This has translated into Seoul’s top ranking when it comes to getting the best 5G speeds with iPhones 12s, but which is followed by the Gulf cities of Dubai and Riyadh.

Top 15 Global Capitals, Ranked by 5G Experience, over the iPhone 12

Source: https://www.speedtest.net/insights/blog/apple-iphone-12-launch-5g-speeds/

These tests and others indicate one clear trend; that major global cities are striving to deliver excellent 5G services, and that the top honors will be hotly contested in the year ahead. Cities with superior coverage will no doubt lead in 5G experience delivery. With this in mind, the GCC must continue to be proactive its own 5G journey to ensure it cements its position in the global vanguard.

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