Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure (pictured, centre) rejected analyst predictions 5G handsets will represent a fraction of all phones available in 2021, revealing all the US operator’s devices will be compatible with the next generation technology that year.
Claure’s comment, made on Twitter, followed a Strategy Analytics forecast commercial 5G handsets won’t begin to gain scale until 2021, when they will account for around 5 per cent of total global handset sales.
Rival analyst company Gartner made a similar prediction in January, tipping a 9 per cent ratio for 5G models relative to total sales.
In May 2017, Sprint teamed up with its parent company SoftBank and Qualcomm to develop 5G technologies using the operator’s 2.5GHz spectrum, with plans to launch in 2019. At Mobile World Congress this year, Sprint CTO John Saw added the operator is working with its phone partners to bring 5G capabilities to flagship devices starting early next year.
“It [our first 5G device] is not going to be a low end phone that has 5G on it. I think it’s going to be based on an iconic type smartphone,” Saw said.
Strategy Analytics acknowledged 5G smartphone sales will begin in China, Japan, South Korea and the US in 2019, but predicted sales volumes in the millions that year. The figure will creep up to tens of millions in 2020, before hitting the hundreds of millions in 2023 as network deployments expand to cover most of the developed world and phone prices drop.
Sprint’s competitors are also eyeing 5G device launches. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson revealed the operator will lead with a mobile hotspot device called a puck, while T-Mobile US CTO Neville Ray said his company is also eagerly awaiting smartphone launches in 2019.
Verizon remained reasonably quiet on the subject, but CEO Lowell McAdam recently envisioned a future in which 5G devices only need to be charged once per month.