HUAWEI ANALYST SUMMIT, SHENZHEN: The rollout of 4G networks sparked a sharp increase in smartphone demand starting in 2012, but with growth slowing over the past two years, some vendors are looking to the launch of 5G to spur a new wave of growth.
Shawn Sheng, VP of 5G handset product line at Huawei (pictured), said it’s clear 4G contributed to the rapid growth of the smartphone market: “But that growth is slowing down and saturation is coming,” he said, adding the industry needs something to invigorate the market and faster 5G networks should be the catalyst.
Strategy Analytics figures show global shipments grew only 1 per cent in 2017 and topped 1.5 billion units for the first time ever. Shipments in Q4 fell 9 per cent year-on-year to 400 million units. The research company noted shipments in China, the world’s largest smartphone market, fell 16 per cent compared with Q4 2016.
Peter Jarich, head of GSMA Intelligence, believes three factors will be at play in pushing 5G handset demand: “One, faster networks which will drive upgrades. Two, the coolness of 5G for people who want the latest and greatest. Three, operator promotions which drive 5G devices based on their interest in getting people onto 5G networks.”
He noted the last factor, in particular, is something “we saw with LTE.”
“There will be a time when operators mandate that any new flagships will be 5G devices”.
Huawei announced its device roadmap at the event, with a 5G hotspot launch due in Q2 and a 5G smartphone release in H2 2019. Commercial availability of its Balong 5G chipset is scheduled for early 2019.
Sheng also outlined some of the 5G smartphone design challenges, such as a required fivefold jump in processing ability and two-and-a-half-time increase in power consumption.