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5G Handsets are Just Around the Corner, but 4G & 2G Still Have a Long Run Ahead of Them

by Ken Hyers | Mar 22, 2018

Strategy Analytics in its newly published report Global Handset Sales Forecast by 88 Countries and 19 Technologies: 2003 to 2023 finds that while the first 5G commercial handsets will go on sale from early 2019, sales will not begin to scale up until 2021 when volumes approach 5% of global handset sales.

5G smartphone sales will begin in China, Japan, South Korea and the USA from 2019 says Senior Analyst Ville-Petteri Ukonaho. But volumes in 2019 will be in just the millions, and only barely in the tens of millions in 2020.



Few large-scale 5G networks, only a handful of 5G handset models from phone makers available, along with high-prices for 5G smartphones and lack of compelling use cases will limit sales of the next-generation devices in their first few years.

The report highlights the fact that 4G LTE, currently the dominant handset technology worldwide, will remain a mainstay for mobile phones through 2023 and beyond. 4G handset sales volumes continue to grow and will do so through 2020, when they will account for 4 out of 5 handsets sold. Well into the next decade 4G LTE will be the mainstay technology powering most of the world’s handsets.

Strategy Analytics finds in its latest report that despite recent slowing growth in global handset sales, there are still many pockets of opportunity for Mobile Network Operators and Handset Vendors.

There remain hundreds of millions of potential first-time mobile phone customers in emerging markets, particularly in Africa and parts of Asia. These customers are looking for reliable and inexpensive means of communication, making feature phones of particular interest to this segment. Meanwhile, in mature developed markets like China, much of Europe, Japan, South Korea and the USA, growth is stagnating and handset replacement cycles are lengthening.

5G, while still several years off for most potential customers, represents a way to kick-start stagnating smartphone sales as customers discover new use cases powered by ultra-high-speed data rates and super-low latency.

The report Global Handset Sales Forecast by 88 Countries and 19 Technologies: 2003 to 2023 is available to Strategy Analytics clients of our Emerging Devices Technologies research service. The report tracks and forecasts handset sales by 1st generation through 2G, 3G, 4G and the coming 5G technologies across 88 countries.

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