(Reuters) — Sweden’s Ericsson on Monday raised its global forecast for 5G mobile subscriptions to 220 million by the end of this year, citing faster than expected uptake in China.

The telecoms equipment maker, which had previously forecast 190 million subscriptions, said it expects China to account for almost 80% of the newly forecast total.

“What has fueled the growth is China, and that is driven in itself by a strong strategic national focus on 5G in China,” head of networks Fredrik Jejdling told Reuters.

Ericsson said in its biannual Mobility Report that 2020 had seen society take a “big leap toward digitalization,” as the pandemic acted as a catalyst for rapid change and highlighted the impact connectivity has on people’s daily lives.

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About 15% of the world’s population, or 1 billion people, are expected to be in an area that would be covered by 5G by the end of the year, Jejdling said.

The company forecast 3.5 billion 5G subscriptions by the end of 2026, accounting for more than 50% of mobile data traffic, with four out of every 10 mobile subscriptions being 5G.

Ericsson, which competes with China’s Huawei and Finland’s Nokia, added that 60% of the world’s population will have access to 5G coverage in 2026.

Ericsson has won contracts from all three major operators in China to supply radio equipment for 5G networks.

The mobile network industry has faced waning demand for 4G and older network equipment, but 5G spending in North America has helped fuel a return to growth.

The new generation of mobile phone technology will bring faster data speeds and support a greater variety of connected devices.

(Reporting by Helena Soderpalm and Supantha Mukherjee, editing by Jan Harvey.)

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