Sweden's Ericsson said today that the number of 5G subscriptions were expected to rise to 580 million by the end of 2021 from 220 million last year, and to reach more than 3.5 billion by 2026.

North East Asia, including China, now has the highest 5G subscription penetration, followed by North America.

But by 2026, North America is forecast to have the highest share of 5G subscriptions of all regions at 84%, Ericsson said.

About 73% of all subscriptions would be 5G in Gulf countries in 2026 and about 69% in western Europe, Ericsson's biannual mobility report said.

Early availability of spectrum made 5G deployment go faster in China last year and this year but other regions were catching up, Ericsson's head of networks Fredrik Jejdling told Reuters.

At the end of 2020, there were 6 billion smartphone subscriptions.

Ericsson has forecast that number would reach 7.7 billion in 2026, accounting for around 88% of all mobile subscriptions at that time.