ZTE plans to release a smartphone with 5G capabilities in the US by early 2019 at the latest, as the Chinese manufacturer looks to steal a march on rivals by being the first to offer next-generation mobile services.
In comments made on the sidelines of CES 2018 in Las Vegas, ZTE’s US CEO Lixin Cheng told Bloomberg the device would be launched at the end of 2018 or early 2019, although plans could change depending on the availability of 5G networks along with the crucial chipsets required to deliver faster connectivity.
A 5G-capable tablet or home internet hubs were also touted by Cheng as possibilities.
Cheng’s comments follow an announcement by US operator AT&T, which said it would launch mobile 5G services in a dozen cities across the country by the end of this year. Questions were raised about AT&T’s plans, given the fact phone manufacturers had not indicated they were planning to launch 5G-ready devices in 2018.
Qualcomm previously said its 5G chips will not be ready until 2019, meaning it would be difficult for compatible devices to hit the market this year.
Trumping Apple, Samsung
Should ZTE come through with a 5G-ready device in the timeframe given, the vendor could be the first globally to offer such a feature, marking a major triumph over larger rivals Apple and Samsung, and a range of competing Chinese vendors.
So far there are no concrete indications Apple and Samsung are developing devices capable of delivering 5G. Apple began 5G network testing in 2017, while Samsung struck a partnership with Verizon around 5G-ready equipment for the home.
Launching such a device in the US would also help ZTE move on from some of the scrutiny it faced in the market. The company was fined around $1 billion in early 2017 for breaching US trade sanctions with Iran, and there remains security concerns in the country around Chinese companies.
ZTE rival Huawei was tipped to announce an operator partnership with AT&T this week, as it launches its Mate 10 Pro device in the US, but the partnership crumbled at the final hurdle.