What the Latest Ericsson Mobility Report Tells Us About 6G

June 21, 2023

Written by Caio Castro
smartphone and 6G

Let’s address this right away: the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, released this morning by the Swedish company, does not address 6G directly. However, it provides valuable hints about the evolution towards the next generation of mobile connectivity.

6GWorld delves into three of them.

Ten-Year Cycle?

Ericsson’s forecast indicates that 5G adoption is just getting traction. 5G subscriptions grew from 510 million in 2021 to 950 million in 2022 – and they should reach 1.5 billion by the end of 2023.

But let’s look at the expected numbers for 2028. This is when researchers and part of the market foresee 6G to be close to rollout.

According to the Ericsson report, 5G subscriptions will reach 4.6 billion – and there will still be room for growth, considering that 4G subscriptions account for 5.1 billion today. How operators will deal with a still-rising market while potentially advertising a new product in 6G is to be seen.

The telecommunications industry has been increasingly vocal about its concerns regarding the ten-year cycle of new Gs. Some propose changing the mindset so that companies have time to market their products and develop them to the fullest.

Video, Video, and Video

As 5G adoption spreads, users make the most of its capabilities – bandwidth especially. The report shows that video consumption is the dominant activity across all subscriber clusters considered, accounting for more than 60% of total traffic.

The share of streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime among video users has sharply risen: in North America, Video on Demand (VoD) services increased from 4% to 23%. In Europe, it went from 1% to 17%.

“Video is having a significant influence on data consumption and traffic volumes in advanced mobile broadband markets. This trend is being driven by intense and extreme users, who have the highest percentages of video consumption,” the report states.

“Video traffic share changes across subscriber clusters when going from light users to extreme users, with social media-generated video reducing its share in favour of a higher share of VoD streaming services.”

The numbers are set to increase in the coming years, and network capabilities such as low latency, bandwidth, and coverage will become even more critical for allowing users to watch content on the go.

Preparing for AR

While videos are already taking off, the report forecasts augmented reality (AR) as one of the future mobile internet use cases.

“The AR ecosystem is moving toward a tipping point when all the key elements are sufficiently developed to support services at scale, and this is expected in the latter part of this decade,” the document points out.

Using data from Los Angeles, Ericsson simulated data consumption to understand the requirements and potential areas of development to match users’ needs in AR.

The results indicate that “AR users would consume (in uplink) around three times the bits during the busy hour relative to a mobile broadband user. Each bit would require on average four times more radio network capacity […] This totals 12 times more uplink radio network capacity requirements than a mobile broadband user in this timeframe.”

Ericsson’s report also shows that the projected AR traffic demand will outweigh the network capacity without additional mid-band spectrum, new functionalities for AR traffic characteristics, and complementing RAN densification.

Another suggestion is using the 7-15 GHz range, called centimetre wave, for 5G and future networks. “None of these solutions will be sufficient on their own to address the capacity gap toward 2030 in the studied AR scenarios; a combination of all three will be needed to satisfy future network demands.”

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