It seems that we can reasonably expect the first 5G smartphones to arrive sometime in the first quarter of 2019, with the next Mobile World Congress at the end of February being the venue where manufacturers will debut their next-generation handsets.
I spoke to multiple people at Mobile World Congress last week that agreed with this basic timetable. T-Mobile US Inc. 's CTO Neville Ray said he expected smartphones "by this time next year." Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) CTO John Saw described that timeline as "aggressive" but possible, even as the carrier messages availability in the first half of next year. (See T-Mobile to Roll Out 5G in 30 US Cities in 2018 and Sprint's Initial 5G Cities Will Get 4G Massive MIMO First.)
"I think we're probably a year and a bit away from the launch of commercial devices," Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) chief engineering officer Murthy Renduchintala told me at the show.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is expecting to get 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) -compliant 5G New Radio (NR) chipsets from several silicon providers later this year in order to deliver mobile 5G "as soon as possible." (See Verizon: We'll Be First With Fixed & Mobile 5G.)
Availability of 5G chipsets could still be a bottleneck for smartphones but it appears that the first devices will arrive earlier rather than later next year.
Of course, we're likely to see some of the usual issues that happen when we move to a next-generation wireless standard. Initial devices are probably going to be expensive, likely suffer from battery life issues, and frequently revert to 4G connections because of the limited availablity of 5G networks.
Nonetheless, Mobile World Congress 2019 is going to be real coming-out party for mobile 5G smartphones.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading