by Tim Fisher
Updated October 09, 2018
5G is the newest wireless networking technology that phones, smartwatches, cars, and other mobile devices will use in the coming years, but it won’t be available in every country at the same time.
There’s a good possibility that North Americans will see some smaller iterations of 5G networks pop up as early as 2018, but it won’t take off until 2020.
5G broadband internet from Verizon is currently available in a few cities. More areas are likely to get at-home and mobile 5G in late 2018 and early 2019.
However, we could see an accelerated (or even slower) release of 5G networks in the United States since the US government proposes nationalizing 5G.
See When Is 5G Coming to the US? for more information.
Canada’s Telus Mobility has given 2020 as the year 5G is available to its customers, but explains that people in the Vancouver area can expect early access.
Rogers Communications, which covers 97 percent of Canadians, announced in September, 2018, that they are partnering with the University of British Columbia to turn the campus into a 5G test site in early 2019. This will likely help pave the way to Rogers providing mobile 5G to its customers sometime in 2019 or 2020.
In late 2017, the Mexican telecommunications company América Móvil announced the release of 4.5 networks in anticipation of a 5G release.
It’s CEO says 5G should be available in 2020 but could come as soon as 2019 depending on the technology that’s available at that time.
South American countries with the greatest populations will probably see 5G come out in spurts starting in late 2019.
Entel is the largest telecommunications company in Chile, and has partnered with Ericsson to bring 5G wireless service to Chilean customers.
According to this 2017 press release from Ericsson, “Deployment of the core network projects begins immediately and will be completed in different phases throughout 2018 and 2019.”
Movistar and Ericsson tested 5G systems in 2017 and will likely roll it out to customers around the same time that Chile sees 5G.
After having signed an agreement to help develop and deploy the technology, we expect Brazil to usher in 5G service starting sometime in 2020.
This time range is also supported by Qualcomm director Helio Oyama, who has stated that 5G will most likely hit Brazil a few years after it’s commercially available elsewhere in 2019/2020.
5G is expected to reach most Asian countries by 2020.
It’s safe to assume that South Korea 5G mobile networks will start popping up around the beginning of 2019.
South Korea’s SK Telecom service provider began trialing 5G service in 2017 and successfully used 5G in their self-driving test site called K-City, and KT Corporation collaborated with Intel to showcase 5G service at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, but 5G isn’t coming to the rest of South Korea that soon.
According to the ICT and Broadcasting Technology Policy director at the Ministry of Science and ICT, Heo Won-seok, South Korea can expect commercial deployment of 5G service in the second half of 2019.
Heo estimates that 5% of the country’s mobile users will be on a 5G network by 2020, 30% within the following year, and 90% by 2026.
NTT DOCOMO is Japan’s largest wireless carrier. They’ve been studying and experimenting with 5G since 2010 and plan to launch 5G service in 2020.
China’s director of Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), Wen Ku, has said that “The goal is to launch pre-commercial 5G products as soon as the first version of standards comes out…”.
Along with the Chinese state-owned telecommunications operator, China Unicom, who’s expected to build 5G pilot projects in 16 cities including Beijing, Hangzhou, Guiyang, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Fuzhou, Zhengzhou and Shenyang, is China Mobile who will reportedly deploy 10,000 5G base stations by 2020.
Given that these standards are likely to be finalized mid-2018, it follows that China could see commercially available 5G service available by 2020.
However, the United States government has talked about nationalizing 5G in the US to purportedly protect the US from malicious Chinese attacks, and some companies like AT&T have been pressured from the US government to cut ties with phones made in China. This might affect the timeframe for Chinese telecom providers to release 5G.
According to Ooredoo, a telecom company in Qatar that has been working on implementing 5G since 2016, they are the first company in the world to provide commercial 5G access.
At the moment, 5G is only available in Qatar, but since Ooredoo has markets in Iraq, Oman, Palestine, Maldives, Singapore, Algeria, and other countries, it isn’t a stretch to think that we’ll see 5G reach those areas in 2019–2020.
Vodafone is another company in the process of providing 5G service in Qatar, with the CEO estimating that customers will be able to use 5G before the end of 2018.
Ooredoo is also looking into using 5G for home broadband service.
Two out of three of the telecommunication companies in Kuwait have launched 5G service.
Zain was the first, announcing the 5G launch in June, 2018. On the same day, just hours later, Ooredoo announced similar news.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India released this PDF in late 2017 that outlines the 5G standard draft and shows a timeframe for when 5G should be deployed around the world.
According to Manoj Sinha, the minister of the Department of Telecommunications, India is set to adopt 5G by that same year: “When the world will roll out 5G in 2020, I believe India will be at par with them.”
On top of that, in August 2018, one of India’s largest telecom providers, Vodafone Idea Limited (previously called Idea Cellular), merged with Vodafone (which was the world’s second largest phone company before the merger). Vodafone was already preparing for 5G, having set up “future ready technology” in 2017 by upgrading their entire radio network to support 5G.
Only one company has tested 5G in Africa, and there isn’t yet a release date for when it will become available for customers.
Vodacom Group, which was the first to introduce 4G, 3G, and 2G in South Africa, is at it again with the release of a 5G trial in Lesotho in August, 2018. They showcased a fixed wireless access (FWA) network using a temporary license in the 3.5 GHz band.
European countries should have 5G access by 2020.
Norway’s biggest telecom operator, Telenor, successfully tested 5G in early 2017 and is likely to provide full 5G access in 2020.
According to the 5G Strategy for Germany, released by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), trial installations will begin in 2018 with a commercial launch by 2020.
5G is planned to be rolled out “over the period to 2025.”
EE is the biggest 4G provider in the UK and will likely have a commercial launch of 5G by 2020.
Swisscom plans to deploy 5G to select locations in Switzerland before the start of 2019, with full coverage expected in 2020.
After purchasing spectrum to implement 5G, Vodafone Spain launched 5G trials in various cities in June, 2018, including Madrid, Valencia, Seville, and Barcelona.
In September, 2018, they installed a 5G network node in La Nave, Madrid.
The Elisa Oyj telecommunications company in Finland claims to be “first in the world to launch commercial 5G.” In June, 2018, the company opened a commercial 5G network in Tampere.
Most major countries in Oceania should see limited 5G roll-out in 2019 and greater availability by 2020.
Telstra announced in August, 2018, that they had “switched on 5G technology across selected areas of the Gold Coast,” giving the state of Queensland the country’s first 5G-ready network. According to the CEO, Telstra will have 200+ 5G-capable sites live before 2019.
Australia’s second largest telecommunications company, Optus, is aiming for an early 2019 release of fixed 5G service “in key metro areas.”
Vodafone has provided a 2020 release date for 5G in Australia. This is a reasonable time frame considering that not only is Vodafone the country’s largest mobile provider but because lots of other countries will likely adopt 5G by that same year.
Having already been laying the groundwork for 5G, and implementing 5G trials in March of 2018, New Zealand’s Spark NZ plans to have a full 5G network ready to go by 2020. They plan to release 5G in metropolitan areas first.
Anyone who attends the Asian Games this year can try out 5G in Jakarta, Indonesia. A special Telkomsel SIM card is needed in order to connect to the network.
It’s unclear whether Indonesia will see commercial 5G begin to roll out in 2018 or 2019, or later, but a trial of this size is a great indicator that they’re on a track of some sort.