A rapid rise in the number of mid-range to low-end 5G smartphones is making its mark on the global smartphone market.
According to new data released by Omdia, a Light Reading sister company, the share of 5G smartphones will reach 43% of the overall market in 2021. It's more than double last year's 19% market share (as calculated by Omdia). The analyst firm expects the overwhelming majority of 5G smartphones (81%) to be confined to sub-6GHz frequencies, however.
With commercial adoption of millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum likely to pick up next year, particularly in China and "major Asian countries," Omdia reckons the share of mmWave-enabled 5G smartphones – as a proportion of all 5G smartphones – will increase from 19% this year to 32% in 2022.
The promise of 5G mmWave, which typically refers to frequencies above 24GHz, is of course delivery of much more bandwidth (and in a more cost-effective way in urban deployments) than is possible with sub-6GHz spectrum. It can act as a complement to low- and mid-band spectrum as demand for capacity increases.
Peter Jarich, head of GSMA Intelligence, speaking at MWC Shanghai earlier this year, said past efforts to commercialize mmWave had failed because there wasn't the urgent demand for capacity to carry data. "As we look at capacity demands there's this recognition that new spectrum is required," he said.
One sign of industry momentum came recently from Qualcomm, which boasted that some 43 operators and equipment manufacturers had committed to collaborating with it on deploying 5G in mmWave spectrum.
Omdia's 5G smartphone forecast forms part of its newly launched Smartphone Feature Forecast Database. The data shows low-end smartphones with set prices of between $91 and $150 per unit hold the largest share of the global smartphone market, but the price of smartphones is continuing to rise due to increased demand for 5G smartphones and improved hardware features.
As demand for premium smartphones has also steadily increased recently, Omdia thinks that shipments of premium smartphones – with a set price over $751 – are expected to exceed 200 million units for the first time this year.
The Smartphone Feature Forecast report, explains Omdia, goes beyond top-line and model-level shipment numbers. Among the trends explored are 5G connectivity, display dimensions, sensors, cameras and price tiers.
— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading