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5G Sales are Poised to Pass 4G - We've Come a Long Way

by Ken Hyers | Aug 05, 2021

Global handset shipments have returned to growth in 2021.  LTE (4G) is the dominant air-interface technology, though GSM (2G) continues to show strength in various markets around the globe, reflecting the ongoing need for reliable and affordable feature phone-based cellular service.  3G is in steady, and terminal, decline – it is essentially a zombie tech (as a standalone handset tech) and will effectively be dead soon.  5G is steadily gathering steam and 5G smartphones will very soon outsell LTE ones, even if consumer-focused 5G use-cases (the next killer app) haven’t really been identified yet.

Handset Sales Forecast Copper Image

The industry has come a long way since 1973 when Marty Cooper made the first cellular phone call.  From counting annual phone sales in millions and tens of millions of units we quickly began counting hundreds of millions and then over a billion – and soon, two billion.

If you’re old enough you’ll remember the cellular G wars (“This is “real” 3G, that isn’t”).  The industry got behind 4G and now 5G is growing even faster then anyone expected. Already planning for 6G is well underway.  It’s been an interesting ride so far and looks to remain that way for a while longer.

Our Device Technologies service tracks handset and smartphone sales by air interfaces (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, 6G) and the other technologies powering modern mobile phones, whether imaging, foldable displays, short-range wireless technologies, biometrics or Artificial Intelligence.  Clients can access that research here.

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