US Q2 5G 4-5 million. Year-end 15-25 million

According to Ken Hyers at Strategy Analytics, 3.4 million 5G phones shipped in Q1 in the U.S. and 2.7 million in Q2. Stores were closed and promotion limited. Some of the 6.1 million shipped were in transit or store inventory, hence the total of 5-6 million plus (modest) carryover from 2019. Update August 10 M Science released a lower estimate of 5G phone sales and I have reduced my U.S. Q2 figure to 4-5 million.

Most were expensive Samsung phones. SA gets information directly from the makers and has proven reliable in the past.

I expect far more than 2.7 million in the next two quarters. The 5G iPhone is in limited production, with an announcement expected in September. Hans Vestberg at Verizon expects large sales of the iPhone 5G, although there are rumors of limited production this year.

Phone prices are down to US$230-270 in China and 400 euros for decent models. (6.5″, three cameras, …) Nearly none of those models are available in the U.S. The cheapest 5G phone at Amazon was the Nubia gaming phone at US$629, made by ZTE. Nothing else was less than US$800. It’s less than US$2 to airfreight a phone to the U.S., so inevitably less expensive units will reach us. They may not access Verizon’s mmWave service, but mmWave connected only 0,4% of the time per Open Signal.

Sasha Sagan at PCMAG is enthusiastic about the OnePlus Nord, becoming widely available in Europe for 400 euros. He tweets “The @OnePlus Nord is an amazing midrange phone which fills me with rage that we don’t get these kinds of options in the US.” I’m sure we’ll see similar by September, driving up 5G sales.

In addition, both real and faux 5G networks are deploying rapidly. AT&T just announced they cover about half of the country with low-band, with speeds lower than decent 4G. T-Mobile has done similar. Verizon promised low-band to half the country by June although it is behind schedule. Verizon continues to refuse data on 5G coverage, except for the meaningless count of cities.

More significant, T-Mobile is rapidly building 5G midband in the Sprint 2.5 GHz golden spectrum. Neville Ray says the average speed is over 300 Mbps down as the network is almost unloaded. Nothing’s official, but T-Mobile is likely to cover 20% of the U.S. with mid-band very soon and 50-80% next year.

Verizon is building 4G/5G very widely in the shared CBRS spectrum, which it will supplement with dedicated 3.5 GHz spectrum after the auction is concluded.

5G 2020 Predictions: Surprising and surprise free 210 million, Low 175M, High 230M

“I will tell you, there’s a lot of units coming.” Liam Griffin, CEO Skyworks

Update June 18

If it’s slower than 4G, is it really 5G? AT&T and Deutsche Telekom have each revealed they have covered about 1/3rd of their country with “low-band 5G.” They refuse to answer questions about speed or latency, but they almost surely are slower than decent 4G today. It’s 4G LTE with “5G NR software,” which does very little below 2 GHz. Don’t believe the hype!

Not long ago, Telekom Germany boss Dirk Wössner did not consider low-band truly 5G but the marketing people have won. Consumers rarely know the difference and most reporters are too lazy to ask what the real speeds are. Regulators are turning a blind eye so they can claim progress on 5G.

Unfortunately, that means any analysis of 5G in the U.S. or Europe from now on will be somewhere between confusing and wildly misleading. Including mine, although I’ll do my best not to include low-band in my numbers.

If you don’t believe me, ask any engineer building a network anywhere in the world. Software can’t yield much more speed in low-band without breaking the laws of physics.

Update June 14

MIIT has confirmed the Chinese telcos are exaggerating their number of 5G users. The real number is closer to 50 million rather than the 75 million claimed as “contracts” See No 5G Phone? China May Count You as 5G Anyway. I have not lowered my 2020 estimate of worldwide 5G subs. MIIT also raised planned 2020 5G actual users to 180 million. Telco CEOs get fired if they don’t meet quotas so they will find a way. The 30% price cut and low phone prices should do the trick.

Intel has a 5G cloud-native core working, according to a well-informed European. So does Cisco.

Update June 10

I have restored the December 2019 “surprise-free” of 210 million. 15 million 5G phones were sold in China in May, almost half of total phone sales. 618 holiday sale prices for a 5G Xiaomi Redmi 10X are US$198. A Huawei Honor phone was promoted at US$148 but sold out almost immediately.

Apple will begin volume production of 5G iPhones in July (Digitimes.) Rumors persist sales will be limited until late in the year, however. Verizon and others expect very strong sales when the 5G iPhones is available.

The three Chinese carriers have lowered the basic price of 5G from ~US$18 to ~US$13.

Continue reading