Commercial 5G: Consumer offerings of 10 operators

In June 2021, STL published: Monetising 5G with consumers: What are the options? exploring commercial 5G propositions for consumers at 10 telcos to determine how operators are approaching this segment.

Number of 5G handsets by price range, by operator



The report provides a description of the tariffing approach taken towards 5G smartphone packages, 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) plus mobile broadband packages and where available, tablet and laptop propositions.  The report also provides a snapshot on operator spectrum bands used for commercial 5G, RAN coverage to date and standalone/non-standalone status. It also reviews device range and affordability (see graphic above), subscription services on offer as well as other initiatives MNOs have taken to differentiate their commercial 5G service offerings. The report also highlights the level of 5G MVNO activity in each market and whether our surveyed operators have extended 5G to both its own brands and to independent players. The following is a brief profile:

1. China Mobile, China

China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom launched their commercial 5G service at the same time in November 2019.  To encourage early take up, China Mobile offered a 30% loyalty discount to subscribers who had been customers for five years or more and a 20% discount to customers of less than five years. The loyalty discount applied for the first six months of the 12-month service agreement. China Mobile reported 189 million 5G package customers at 31 March 2021, an increase of 24 million over the quarter. Of this, 92.76 million are 5G Network Customers – i.e. 5G mobile customers who have used the 5G network in the current month and stayed on the network at the end of the month.

2. DNA, Finland

DNA followed Elisa and Telia with its launch of commercial 5G services. DNA is the third operator in Finland with a 27% revenue market share and 2.7 million subscriptions at the end of 2020. The Finnish market is postpay dominated with the majority subscribing to speed-based tariffs. Finland has the highest per capita mobile data consumption in the world.  By December 2020, DNA reported almost 50% of smartphone sales were 5G as more 5G devices came to market. A DNA survey of network data usage between July and August 2020 found a DNA 5G Home broadband (FWA) subscriber used an average of around 576GB of data over two months. 

3. EE, UK

EE was the first to commence 5G commercialisation in the UK in May 2019 but was quickly followed by Vodafone, Three and O2 later that year. When EE first launched 5G in 2019 it charged a £5 premium over 4G for the equivalent smartphone tariff. As of May 2021, EE’s postpay mobile tariffs were 5G-ready. EE also offers a FWA 5GEE home broadband proposition. In its FY 2020/21 results in May 2021 EE’s parent BT Group reported its 5G ready customer base stood at 3.26 million. EE is striving to enter exclusive and strategic partnerships in order to bolster its 5G credentials. Partners include Lenovo, Apple, NReal, Niantic

4. Elisa, Finland

In 2018, Elisa was the first in the world to test 5G terminals in a pre-standard 5G network and was the first in Europe with a consumer offering in 2019. Elisa has adopted a strategy of unlimited data with speed tiers since the early years of 4G adoption. Elisa does not disclose official 5G subscriber figures. At Q1 2021, Elisa reported 91% of its customers use a smartphone and 7% of smartphones are 5G. From this we approximate around 228,173 5G smartphones . In December 2020, Elisa’s CEO remarked it had almost 200,000 5G subscribers. Over half of smartphone sales in Q1 2021 were 5G.

5. Globe Telecom, Philippines 

Globe Telecom (Globe) was the first to launch 5G for broadband in South East Asia and the third in Asia to offer 5G connectivity behind South Korea and Japan. The roll out of 5G is part of a three- pronged approach alongside an on-going extensive upgrade of all cell sites to 4G LTE and speeding up fibre deployment.  Tariff plan pricing is not differentiated by access (4G/5G) technology. After launching a 5G FWA solution in select areas in mid 2019, Globe introduced 5G across its postpay range in early 2020 with prepay customers being able to access the 5G network at no extra cost from August 2020. Globe’s CEO has highlighted the cost of CPE is a factor in 5G FWA take up and similarly the availability of 5G phones in the $200-300 region makes 5G affordable to the middle market. 

6. NTT DoCoMo, Japan

NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank all launched commercial 5G networks in Japan at the same time, in March 2020. Rakuten Mobile followed with a 5G service shortly after in September.  As of 1 April 2021, following calls by the government for all telcos to reduce prices, DoCoMo lowered prices and introduced unlimited data on its new 5G Gigaho Premier tariff which replaces 5G Gigaho 100GB plan. To further address the government’s call for lower prices, MNOs and MVNOs introduced a 20GB ahamo tariff in March 2021. NTT DoCoMo reported its 5G subscribers doubled from the previous quarter to 3.09 million at the end of March 2021 (FY 2020), representing 3.74% of the total base of 82.63 million.

7. Ooredoo, Qatar

Ooredoo was also among the first operators in the world to launch 5G in the 3.5GHz band in May 2018, experimenting with home broadband and enterprise solutions. In July 2019 the operator opened up access to customers with 5G compatible smartphones.  In late 2019, Ooredoo announced its postpay Shahry and Qatarna tariff plans were 5G-enabled. Prepay tariffs are currently not 5G-enabled. The tariffs already offered “endless internet” or unlimited data with speed reductions once an inclusive threshold or data cap is met. Endless internet was introduced to Shahry tariffs in April 2018. The current tariffs are available to both 4G and 5G customers. Having launched new 5G-enabled Shahry and Qatarna in December 2019, Ooredoo reported 100,000 customers had subscribed to these 5G tariffs by the end of March (Q1) 2020.

8. Rogers, Canada

Rogers Communications (Rogers) was the first to launch commercial 5G services in early 2020. Due to COVID-19, Bell Canada delayed its launch until June 2020. Telus also launched in June 2020. In June 2019, Rogers launched a new 4G postpay range of Infinite plans. The tariffs offered “worry-free” unlimited data with no overages, but instead a data cap and speed reduction. It was the first national carrier to introduce unlimited data plans. When Rogers launched 5G services, the Infinite tariffs (which were a precursor) automatically became 5G ready. 

9. Swisscom

Swisscom and rival Sunrise launched 5G around the same time of March/April 2019, with Salt following in early 2020. In early April 2021 Swisscom switched off its 2G network. Swisscom’s flagship postpay inOne mobile tariffs come with 5G included. The operator has been promoting unlimited data on its high value plans for some time with speed tiering and EU Roaming also as a point of differentiation. Swisscom’s mobile strategy is to defend its customer base through convergence (bundling) and value differentiation using low cost second and third (4G) brands such as Wingo, Coop Mobile and M-Budget. Swisscom is currently piloting 5G FWA service to SME customers.

10. Vodacom, South Africa

Vodacom was the first to switch on its 5G mobile network in May 2020 followed by MTN in June. The 5G commercial deployments were limited to the three cities of Johanesburg, Petoria and Cape Town. In September 2019, data-only fixed wireless operator Rain utilised its 4G network to launch a limited 5G service in parts of Johannesburg and Tshwane. The service was offered to pre-selected existing customers. Rain launched 5G services in Cape Town in July 2020. Vodacom has a partnership agreement with Liquid Telecom which is building a wholesale 5G network using its 56MHz in the 3.5GHz band. Vodacom existing 4G tariffs for mobile and FWA are also applicable on Vodacom’s 5G service where the customer has a 5G handset and is in a 5G coverage area. Vodacom CEO previously stated 5G tariffs would be announced in due course. 

Download the full report here Monetising 5G with consumers: What are the options?

Related 5G reports:

This report accompanies a 3-part series of 5G reports (published in 2021) taking an in-depth look at how 5G pioneers are looking to monetise 5G in the enterprise segment as well as in consumer: