February 2020 My count is 34 telcos actively selling 5G to consumers. 2019 ended with ~19 million active subscriptions. ~14 million were in China and almost all the rest were in Korea. 93% of Korea is covered and ~10% of China. No other carriers have enough subscribers to be willing to reveal the count. Europe is going very slowly, except for Eir which is serving 25% of Ireland. Bravo Xavier Niel.
China intends 150 million by the end of 2020 and Korea 15 million. With decent phones down to $285, those goals are realistic The year started slowly and then came Corona. There's a large stimulus coming after Corona which may pull China back on track. Unless some carriers move strongly, growth in the West will be modest until the IPhone 5G arrives in the fall.
The U.S. has been going slowly, although last year Sprint reached 11% of the nation. Sprint has golden spectrum - 160 MHz at 2.5 GHz - that is the best range to build today. T-Mobile will soon take over, The plan at Sprint was to build very quickly, reaching well over half the country from existing towers. That's also the likely plan at T-Mobile, which has committed to bring 100 Mbps to 80% of the U.S. quickly. It also pledged to invest as much as the two companies did when independent, about $10B/year.
T-Mobile would than have the best network in the U.S.; AT&T and Verizon, which are currently lowering capex, would have to invest more to catch up.
Will T-Mobile accelerate in a few months when the deal closes? Or will they hold back? If the former, the U.S. would quickly become #2 with China in the lead.
Japan has world class engineers at NTT DOCOMO who could build as soon as the money becomes available. They have said nothing about how much or when.
Below, the 34 companies I've confirmed are actively selling to consumers. 30 more have made announcements but I haven't seen evidence they offer substantial commercial service.