US leads the 5G race for now: ABI Research

14 Feb 2019

Of the four global leaders in the 5G, including China, South Korea and Japan, it is the US that is leading at the moment, according to ABI Research.

The researcher attributes this lead due to a number of conditions including market size, the financial health of mobile service providers (MSPs) or operators, and the forward-looking moves of the US regulator – the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“The United States has a stronghold because its carriers have an enhanced fiscal position - they will spend approximately $40 billion on network infrastructure alone during 2019,” says Emanuel Kolta, research analyst at ABI Research.

The four top MSPs will start their 5G service at the end of H1 2019, however, operators are using different methods. While Verizon is focusing on 5G home broadband first, AT&T already started selling its 5G hotspot which is sharing throughput over Wi-Fi; T-Mobile is focusing on nationwide coverage in low-band, and Sprint is focusing on 2.5 GHz and the upgradeable Massive MIMO antennas.

While wireless home broadband and the provision of enhanced mobile broadband will be the core proposition in early US 5G deployments, it is ultra-reliable low-latency communication and enhanced machine-type communication that will gain importance in the longer term.

ABI Research expects that throughout 2019 MSPs will first deploy 5G in megacities, dense urban areas, live sharing locations (e.g., stadiums and concert venues), urban commuter routes, spectrum exhaust areas, as well as company and university campuses.

5G-capable phones will be more widespread from 2020, once all the major players have launched 5G on their flagship models. Apple, the US market leader, won’t make its 5G iPhone commercially available until 2020.

However, Samsung, the second biggest player, is expected to have a 5G model in its Galaxy 10 range, with a launch date likely to be Q1 2019. Smaller device manufacturers like LG, Motorola, OnePlus, and HTC can increase their market share and have a bigger proportion of the 3 million 5G-capable devices shipped in 2019.

US MSPs and internet firms have spent an outstanding amount of resources on 5G related spectrums, deployments, and tests in the past years, which has brought the United States to the forefront of 5G developments.

ABI Research expects that the combination of these early investments, the size of the US market, and the customer's high willingness to pay will all provide a unique environment to US-based firms to flourish. The fact that South Korean and US-based operators will provide 5G connectivity to local businesses first, holds an extraordinary opportunity, at least in short-term.

“However, the long-term outcome of the 5G race is still uncertain. Even Chinese investments and spectrum allocations are late, the scale of the upcoming 5G deployments is simply unprecedented,” Kolta concluded.

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