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5G device outlook

All new mobile standards go through the process of establishing a device ecosystem with interoperability – first on chipsets, then on devices. To support the standard, the mobile network infrastructure needs to work with devices in assigned frequency bands. Now it is 5G’s turn.


Key findings

  • First 5G data-only devices are expected from the second half of 2018.
  • The first 3GPP smartphones supporting 5G are expected in early 2019.
  • From 2020, when third-generation chipsets will be introduced, large numbers of 5G devices are forecast.
  • By 2023, 1 billion 5G devices for enhanced mobile broadband are expected to be connected worldwide.

The figure below summarizes 5G device availability, based on first-generation chipsets following 3GPP standards. From 2020, when third-generation chipsets will be introduced, large numbers of 5G devices are expected.

Fixed wireless access and data-only devices

With 5G able to provide significantly more capacity than 4G, operators will be able to offer new differentiated services. Examples include providing broadband access and data-only connections to new customer segments.

These types of connections – using fixed wireless broadband customer-provided equipment (CPE) and pocket routers – tend to be more stationary than traditional mobile broadband. Such devices can serve many users at once and can be directly connected to power outlets or larger batteries. This makes fixed wireless a device category primed for early 5G entry. First-generation 5G data-only devices are expected from the second half of 2018.

Enhanced mobile broadband and smartphones

Today, a typical high-end smartphone supports GSM, WCDMA and LTE with more than 20 frequency bands. Smartphones will evolve to support 5G in already-available LTE bands, as well as in higher spectrum bands that will be allocated for 5G. The possibility to use multiple spectrum bands poses new challenges for the device ecosystem. These include the use of low MHz to very high GHz frequencies in the same smartphone, with LTE and 5G applied at the same time (aggregated). More efficient technologies, components and processes are required to make this possible. The first commercial smartphones supporting 5G in the mid-bands are expected in early 2019, while support for very high spectrum bands is expected in early to mid-2019.


The first 3GPP smartphones supporting 5G are expected in early 2019.

Industry and the Internet of Things

5G is also expected to empower use cases across industries. The first module-based 5G devices, supporting ultra-low latency communications for industrial process monitoring and control, are expected during 2020.

1 billion 5G devices by 2023

New cellular network technologies have a low initial penetration of compatible devices and 5G will be no different. Penetration will accelerate over chipset and device generations, as declining costs and prices increase volumes sold. By 2023, 1 billion 5G devices for enhanced mobile broadband are expected to be connected worldwide.

5G device availability (3GPP)