Europe is set to be a year behind the rest of the world for 5G rollouts, a new report from CCS Insight has claimed.
The analyst house said China will be first out of the blocks and will account for more than half of 5G subscribers by 2022. While CCS did not give a subscriber figure for that year, it predicted there will be one billion 5G connections by mid-2023, outpacing LTE's adoption.
China is set to dominate the next decade, even when other regions have deployed the technology. In 2025, forty percent of 5G connections from come from the country, analysts said.
By contrast, Europe will be challenged by market fragmentation, spectrum availability and heavier regulation.
[Read more: Deutsche Telekom CTO looking to force 5G issue with new testbed]
Marina Koytcheva, VP Forecasting at CCS Insight, said: "We see China playing a far more influential role in 5G than it did in 4G. Size, scale and economic growth give China an obvious head start, but we expect network deployments to be much faster than in the early days of 4G.
"China will dominate 5G thanks to its political ambition to lead technology development, the inexorable rise of local manufacturer Huawei and the breakneck speed at which consumers have upgraded to 4G connections in the recent past."
Smartphones will be the workhorse of 5G, with Principal Analyst Kester Mann claiming 99 percent of total connections being via handsets by 2025.
Mann said: "The unrelenting hype that has surrounded 5G for several years has seen a diverse range of applications put forward as the main drivers of adoption. Some of them will be relevant at different times of the technology's development, but the never-ending need for speed and people's apparently limitless demand for video consumption will dominate 5G networks."
The analyst house said 5G adoption will broadly follow LTE's rollout. By 2026, subscriptions will hit 2.5 billion, or one in five of total connections.
However, it warned operators need to work out clear business cases, think out network infrastructure deployment strategies and drive consumer demand.
Elsewhere, the report pinned fixed-wireless access as 5G's first commercial use case, driven by early adoption in the United States. However, it was less confident about the long-term appeal, arguing it will only account for a small fraction of total connections.
The research was also less confident about its role within the Internet of Things. It said LTE will do the heavy lifting through NB-IoT and LTE-M until 5G fully supports narrowband technology by the second half of the next decade.
Geoff Blaber, VP Research, Americas at CCS Insight, added: "5G is about creating a network that can scale up and adapt to radically new applications.
"For operators, network capacity is the near-term justification; the Internet of Things (IoT) and mission-critical services may not see exponential growth in the next few years but they remain a central part of the vision for 5G.
"Operators will have to carefully balance the period between investment and generating revenue from new services."
The gloominess over Europe's role within 5G contrasts with that of the GSMA, which claimed yesterday that the continent will account for almost a third of total 5G connections by 2025.