The Gulf Co-operation Council, or GCC, is forecast to have 62mn 5G mobile subscriptions by the end of 2026, representing about 73% of the total mobile subscriptions, according to Ericsson Mobility Report.
"This will make the GCC the region with the second-highest 5G penetration at that time," the report said, adding the 5G would also have “profound” impact on a range of industry verticals.
The GCC countries, part of the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, are among the most advanced ICT (information, communication and technology) markets in the world – over 90% of mobile subscriptions were for mobile broadband at the end of 2020 and this is estimated to reach 95% in 2026.
"4G is the dominant technology, accounting for about 80% of the subscriptions at the end of 2020," the report said.
The initiatives to diversify the GCC countries’ economies into new industries have accelerated both technological innovation and forecasted 5G uptake, it said.
The service providers in the GCC were among the first in the world to launch 5G, with commercial services available in most of the member states during 2019.
Highlighting that the significance of 5G in the GCC region goes beyond the number of subscriptions for consumers; the report said 5G will also bring new capabilities allowing operators to develop innovative applications, services, and revenue streams for the enterprise market.
"New 5G applications and services are expected to have a profound impact on a range of industry verticals," it said.
Driven by Qatar Vision 2030 and its digital initiatives that focus on four main pillars including human, social, environmental, and economic development Qatar is utilising technologies such as 5G to transform the economic and social landscape of the nation.
"As one of the key economies in the GCC, Qatar is one of the key countries that are spearheading the use and growth of technologies such as 5G in a region where mobile data consumption is the highest in the world," it said.
According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, at the end of 2020, the GCC had the highest average monthly data traffic per smartphone in the world, exceeding 18GB.
Elsewhere in the Mena region, Ericsson said commercial 5G deployments with leading service providers have taken place and 5G subscriptions exceeded 1mn at the end of 2020.
The report said "significant" 5G volumes are expected in 2021 and the region is likely to reach around 150mn 5G subscriptions in 2026, representing 18% of the total mobile subscriptions.
The Mena region is expected to have the second highest growth rate during the forecast period, increasing total mobile data traffic by a factor of almost seven between 2020 and 2026.