After years of buildup, 5G is finally here — albeit more as a trickle than a deluge. These things take time, of course. Carriers are adding coverage, city by city, promising dozens by year’s end. And as for hardware, early adopters have somewhere between one and three handsets to choose from, carrier-dependent.
Indeed, 5G is pretty universally regarded as the next key mobile trend, but it’s not going to happen overnight. A new report from Canalys has 2023 as the true pivot point, when 5G handset shipments finally overtake 4G. That’s roughly five years, with 2019 included. Of course, that’s the global number, and these things will almost certainly vary from market to market.
The firm has 5G phones hitting 800 million shipments in 2023, which will comprise 51.4% of the global market for the year. That will bring the total shipments up to 1.9 billion since the first 5G-capable devices were launched this year. North America will make up 18.8% of the market to Greater China’s 34%.
That’s big, continued growth for China, which surpassed the U.S. for the title of the largest smartphone market back in 2011. While the Chinese economy has slowed and taken its high-end smartphone market with it, the country is well-positioned to be an important player in the race to 5G.
“5G smartphones will see rapid adoption in China, thanks to a strong government technology roadmap and operators’ financial capabilities,” Canalys mobile VP Nicole Peng said in a statement. “China is also home to many major 5G equipment suppliers and smartphone vendors, which will be responsible for an aggressive marketing push over the next few years.”