A global analysis from 2020 to 2025, with estimates that cut through the hype.
“I will tell you, there’s a lot of units coming.” Liam Griffin, CEO Skyworks
5G is not going to change the world, no matter what you hear from Xi Jinping, Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, or Angela Merkel. None of them have any idea what they are talking about. The hype level is far beyond anything else I’ve seen in 22 years of reporting.
~63 million people had 5G phones at the end of June 2020. By August, 100 million. Demand is exploding in Asia, mostly China, where decent 5G phones sell for US$199-260. Yearend 5G will be between 200 million and 240 million.
Update September 1. Realme has just released a phone so cheap I probably should raise my estimates. See Realme 5G down to $145 Bloomberg has the rumor that all the new iPhones in 2020 will be 5G. end update
Advanced wireless delivers useful improvements for us in the industry. Hans Vestberg at Verizon estimates his costs are down 90%. But performance generally is disappointing. Latency is typically 25-40 millisecond, not close to the promised 1 ms. With few exceptions, speeds are from 50 Mbps (some low-band) to 400 Mbps. Most of Europe is 100-200 Mbps; Korea claims much higher speeds.
There are no exciting new apps that don’t work fine in 4G. After 18 months, none. I hope some thrilling new apps will appear over time. Some “use cases” are false narratives. Better and cheaper wireless is good for all of us, but not life-changing.
Open-RAN is exciting and working in 4G. Rakuten has 5,000 radios in service. CTO Tareq Amin has had to spend hundreds of millions on custom chips because Open-RAN is not quite ready. It remains the logical choice for new networks and new areas, but Vodafone CTO Scott Petty doesn’t expect primary deployments of Open-RAN until 2023-2025.
This will soon be part of my book, 5G. I have drafts of sections on applications (few,) strategies (take advantage of 5G capacity and low costs,) companies (watch Jio, Rakuten, and the new software vendors, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, Radisys/Jio, & Altiostar,) and informed regulation, Ask me for 0.7 versions if these are important topics for you.
Future updates @analysisbranch
Saudi Arabia average 5G download 414 Mbps, 34% coverage leads the world. US, Europe mostly dismal. Open Signal (I didn’t believe it at first either. STC has upgraded 3,000 of 7,000 towers. See Zain Saudi Arabia: 5G 248 Mbps, ping 17 ms
5G phone prices in China are down to US$199 (Coolpad.) Half a dozen phones are available from $214-$260. That includes the Xiaomi K30, two from Huawei/Honor, Oppo, and Realme. The Coolpad, distributed by China Telecom, uses the new Tiger T7510 chip, designed in China by Ziguang Zhanrui. Qualcomm has announced the 690 chip, also designed for 5G phones under $200. I believe the low price of phones will drive demand over 200 million units in 2020, the highest estimate in the West. See 5G Phones $199-260,
Verizon is making a big push for 4G fixed wireless. Turkcell added 91,000 4G fixed customers in Q2. Inseego has a slew of orders for FWA routers. The 5G version has an improved antenna that Verizon is very hopeful about.
Pompeo announces the Great Firewall of Washington + 30 other countries is a huge policy story that will affect many things but not 5G standards from 3GPP. China is too strong. Ericsson and others have no choice but to follow because China is 70% of 5G. Result: on the technical level, 5G will have one world standard with China central.
17.5 million 5G phones shipped in China in June, about as many as the six month total in the entire rest of the world. However, July was down to 14 million. The 6 month total is 63.6 million. 10-14 million were sold in 2019, so the total 5G phones in China are ~75 million. That’s at least three times the total in the rest of the world. However, it is much less than the carrier figure of > 100 million “contracts,” which includes many still using 4G phones.
60% of phones sold in China in June were 5G. As prices come down elsewhere, I expect similar trends elsewhere. Almost all western telcos have such low counts they refuse to release figures.
MTN in South Africa has upgraded hundreds of base stations to 5G mid-band.
Performance is generally dismal compared to promises
Verizon claimed latency is 30 ms, although it sometimes measures lower. That’s 30% lower than 4G averages, although 4G latency is also falling. T-Mobile’s tested average 5G speed is 49 Mbps and AT&T’s 61 Mbps. The Open Signal chart at left for June summarizes over 10,000 tests. Compare it to the 4G results from Canada, 69 Mbps at Bell and 75 Mbps at Telus.
Mid-band spectrum allows 5G (and 4G) to reach 100’s of megabits, as confirmed by the British 5G companies and the Korean data from Open Signal below. Neville Ray says his lightly loaded new network at 2.5 GHz averages speeds over 300 Mbps. Korean government tests claim speeds average over 600 Mbps, much higher than reported by similar networks elsewhere. I need more data.
Do 5G speeds change what we do on the Internet?
Ask yourself, what can you do at 250 Mbps that you can’t do at 75 Mbps? 4K video typically is 15 Mbps; few of us watch more than three 4K videos at once. Huge downloads are faster, but how often do you download huge files? All claims of economic benefits depend on superior applications, which aren’t on the horizon. Nearly all the “studies” that find economic returns describe applications like IoT and connected cars that work well in 4G. The claims are unsupportable
I’ve interviewed over 100 senior people in the industry, including CTOs of world-class carriers and many of the inventors. Almost all are horrified by how the marketing people, the politicians, and some dreamers abuse the facts.Continue reading