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.

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10M China 5G Users: Everything is Changed – see update

One week after the official launch, CM, CT, and CU have 10,000,000 5G users. 150,000,000 is a plausible estimate for 2020. 5G is here.

** Important update: Actually, the initial 10M were reservations, not users. The government figure is only 3M phones shipped in October. It appears the supply of phones will catch up quickly, but that’s unproven. **

People want to buy, undoubtedly true in the rest of the world as well. Huawei’s Weibo Mall is selling thousands of phones every minute. We need another month of data for certainty, but it looks likely China will reach 100M by summer 2020.

The phone price, mostly US$515 to $700, is $30-100 more than similar 4G phones. The difference in manufacturing cost is $30-45.

4G phones in China will be obsolete in a year or two. Most phones at $400 & above will be 5G. More expensive phones like Huawei’s top models are also selling rapidly. At these prices, you’d be foolish not to buy 5G phones if you purchasing a mid or high-end phone.

What did the Chinese telcos do?

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