Lixin Cheng, the CEO of ZTE’s mobile device business, has said his company’s first 5G smartphone could make an appearance later this year.
In an interview with Bloomberg Cheng indicated that ZTE is keen to get a 5G phone to market ASAP and that it intends to do so as soon as the chipsets and infrastructure are available. This stance concurs with the views of 5G standards contributor Interdigital, which revealed in a recent interview with Telecoms.com that it was not unreasonable to expect to see 5G in the wild this year.
It’s easy to see how seductive the prospect of being one of the first to market with a 5G device is for smartphone vendors, especially ones with relatively small market share. ZTE is pretty irrelevant in the global smartphone market these days, but it is one of the few vendors actively involved in the networking and standardisation side of things, so it presumably sees this as an opportunity to get its name in lights once more.
Another is Chinese rival Huawei, which has recently been reminded that launching a device is one thing, being able to distribute it in the important US market is quite another. A further blow comes in the form of s bill currently being mulled by the US House of Representatives that specifically prohibits the US government from buying gear from ZTE or Huawei. In the case of 5G it probably doesn’t help that non-standalone shares an abbreviation with National Security Agency.
A 5G smartphone launched even in the first half of 2019 is likely to be little more than a marketing gimmick. There will be very little 5G coverage and it will be interesting to see how much higher, if at all, the data rates available are. Having said that absolutely everyone is likely to report on such a thing, so it’s a bit of a no-brainer from a marketing perspective.