Last week we dipped our toes into the new and exciting world of 5G LTE mobile technology with our Ultimate 5G LTE Guide. If you haven’t read it already I’d recommend having a quick browse through it first as it helps to define some base 5G LTE terminology that is referred to in this post.
Everything you need to know about 5G
Read the Guide!
Assuming you have read it though the next main question most people have after learning what 5G LTE is, is wanting to know when 5G mobile phones will launch. Obviously this is a bit different for different countries so I’ll try and give a decent but not exhaustive list and hopefully your country is covered!
If you’re looking for a grand, simple, TL:DR summary though, the answer is: lots of phones and most networks 2019, all phones and all networks 2020.
Table of Contents
What Phones Support 5G LTE?
To properly use 5G LTE you need two main things:
- A 5G LTE capable mobile phone
- A 5G LTE capable mobile phone carrier / telco
I’ll go through both of these but to start with let’s look at the phone hardware itself. To use 5G LTE, it’s new spectrum ranges, mmWave, Beamforming and other fancy new stuff your phone will need a 5G modem.
For the moment Qualcomm looks to be the dominant force behind the development of this with their Snapdragon X50 5G Modem. We’ve covered the X50 before in our piece on Mobile Phones Of The Future – 2018-2020 and the fact that it’s Qualcomm who’s pushing this forward is a very good sign.
After years of perfecting the design, miniaturising and optimising it, it’s now ready for prime time and with a huge array of smartphone makers partnering with them it looks like the vast, vast majority of Android phone manufacturers will be coming out with at least one 5G capable phone soon.
Partners like Google, Samsung, OnePlus, Nokia, LG, OPPO, HTC, Asus, Sony, ZTE and more. Basically everyone in the phone game except for Apple and – oddly – Huawai.
When Will 5G Mobile Phones Launch?
Coming straight from the horses mouth, Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon:
We are very pleased to be working with OEMs, operators, infrastructure vendors, and standards bodies across the world, and are on track to help launch the first 5G… smartphones using our next-generation mobile platform in the first half of 2019.
Obviously there will be “the first” mainstream 5G phone launched by one of their partners listed above. From there, each of the companies will launch their usual flagships at the usual times through 2019, all most likely with something 5G flavoured.
Judging from Samsung’s extensive Galaxy S line launch history, we can likely expect the Galaxy S 10 to be announced either in late February or late March. OnePlus will probably announce theirs in May, Google in October and so on.
Apple historically isn’t super interested in putting cutting-edge wireless tech into their phones so it’s very possible that the 2019 iPhone won’t have 5G. I can totally see Apple waiting that extra year for full convergence and a more complete 5G network roll out before adding it in there.
When Will 5G Mobile Launch?
So now we come to the second part of the equation, your mobile carrier network. Obviously this is different for every carrier in every country. Not only might your specific carrier not be in any rush to invest billions in upgrading their already quite good 4G network, but even if they are they might not be allowed to buy enough spectrum.
One of the main benefits of “the next G” is that it’ll of course be faster. How fast however depends on how much spectrum your carrier has shelled out for and how much is even available to buy in your country. As the wireless spectrum is limited, the government sells off blocks of it to be used by various carriers every few years.
Obviously the more they buy, the better but even then it can still vary a lot. For instance say you’re in a great country that has lots of spectrum available and your carrier has even bought a huge chunk. They’re also upgrading their infrastructure with the new mmWave antennae that’s needed to access this new spectrum. Great!
You can still however end up with the same old “lame” 4G LTE speeds if they haven’t upgraded their mobile tower up link or back haul connections! Or maybe the roll out is super slow and only in areas you don’t live/work in. Sure, they might have plans to do this later but just be aware that there’s a lot of complexity behind mobile telecommunications networks and your connection will only ever operate at whatever the slowest, weakest link is going at.
When Will 5G LTE Launch In America? (Or Elsewhere)
For now though we can get a semi-decent idea for many parts of the world on when exactly we all can start 5G surfing. For America, AT&T is aiming to have 12 cities covered by the end of this year, T-Mobile is launching in 30 cities at some point and Sprint has set the first 5G phone launch for their network before the end of Q2 next year. Verizon on the other hand already has some 5G equipment like the 5G Moto Mod available, so it’s likely they’ll be launching further products over the next 6 months too.
In the land down under Telstra begun 5G trials at the Commonwealth Games. From there they have already switched on 5G technology across areas of the Gold Coast as well as 5G mobile base stations in Adelaide, Canberra, and Perth. They also have targets of “deploying 200 5G enabled base stations in [their] mobile network by the end of this calendar year.”
Regarding Optus a spokeswoman has said they intended to begin rolling out its 5G network in early 2019 to selected metro areas. In this first phase of roll out however customers will only be able to access the 5G network via “fixed wireless products” – read mobile hotspots not phones.
Finally Vodafone seems to be lagging quite a bit as they have announced that they won’t be bringing the 5G power until 2020. This is most likely due to the fact that they have just recently spent billions upgrading their 4G network and probably don’t really see much benefit in upgrading again, barely 2-3 years down the track.
For many other countries like New Zealand, Finland, Japan, China, UK etc I’d recommend looking up this extremely good list here for more info.
So are you excited yet about 5G Mobile? Do you plan on getting a 5G phone in 2019 or skipping that year for the more mature technology developments in 2020? Let us know in the comments below!
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