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5G phones will go mainstream as early as 2019, Qualcomm chief says

Image credit: dt

The first mass-market phones equipped to meet the next-generation mobile standards will become available in Asia and the US in 2019, a leading figure in the smartphone industry has stated. This could mean that the technology is rolled out at least a year ahead of most predictions

According to Steven Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm – the world’s top smartphone chip manufacturer – the growing demands of businesses and consumers are forcing the industry to accelerate its upgrade of new networks and devices, such that 5G phones could become widely available and useable before 2020.

5G – or fifth generation mobile networks – are the next telecommunications standard, following 4G. This will offer greater speed and reliability and lower latency and battery consumption. These improvements could enable new mobile service upgrades and even business models.

While previous upgrades to mobile networks have delivered significantly faster data, the introduction of 5G is likely to enable low-power devices to connect to the internet. This could accelerate the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the highly interconnected network of devices embedded in our homes, cars, cities, farms and hospitals.

5G could also accelerate the mass commercialisation of virtual reality (VR), holographic and augmented reality (AR) content on our smart devices.

“You will see [5G] in real devices, on the shelf, in 2019,” said Mollenkopf. “And if I were to answer that same question a year ago, I would have said 2020.”

The US, South Korea and Japan – the “typical first movers” – already have network operators in each market preparing mainstream network launches before 2020. The 2018 Winter Olympics, which will be hosted by South Korea, are expected to be the first public unveiling of the technology.

During the previous two network upgrades (3G in 1998 and 4G in 2009), South Korea and Japan were first to adopt the new technology, with the US following soon after. This time, China, as the world’s largest smartphone market, may follow close behind.

“You will see robust demand in all of those locations, meaning that there are multiple operators wanting to be first and not left behind. [Most] will have a different deployment strategy or goal,” Mollenkopf added. “From a geopolitical perspective, certain regions of the world just don’t want to be late to that game.”

The UK, while trailing behind the US and Asia, has invested in 5G technology, with £16 million dedicated to a 5G hub in the March 2017 budget. This will allow three universities to build test networks and trial 5G connections, as part of plans to strengthen the UK’s digital economy.

Mollenkopf was speaking to Reuters at Frankfurt Motor Show, which was opened this week by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The event is likely to reflect international pressure on manufacturers to move towards more environmentally friendly technologies, particularly affordable electric and hybrid vehicles.

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