China Will Lead 5G Smartphone Purchases Through 2023 

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A new report from Canalys shows that 5G smartphones will reach nearly 800 million units in 2023, accounting for 51.4% of all smartphone shipments across the world.

The era of 5G is here, meaning 2G, 3G, and 4G are obsolete. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5G smartphone shipments between 2019 and 2023 will be about 180%, while more than 1.9 billion devices will flood global markets by 4Q23.

Canalys shows China will lead the world in 5G smartphone shipments in 2023 (34%), followed by North America (18.8%), and Asia Pacific (17.4%).

Governments around the world, including China, Europe, and the US, have sponsored initiatives to accelerate 5G infrastructure development in major metropolitan areas.

“There was a phenomenal amount of 5G discussion at this year’s MWC Shanghai, with Chinese 5G licenses granted a year earlier than planned. The role of the Chinese government and the well-orchestrated joint investments of operators and equipment suppliers were critical to this earlier commercial launch,” said Nicole Peng, Vice President of Mobility at Canalys.

By 4Q20, Canalys projects that China will account for 17.5% of all 5G smartphone shipments, and this percentage will jump to 62.7% in 2023

“5G smartphones will see rapid adoption in China, thanks to a strong government technology roadmap and operators’ financial capabilities. China is also home to many major 5G equipment suppliers and smartphone vendors, which will be responsible for an aggressive marketing push over the next few years,” added Peng.

“But mass-market adoption of 5G smartphones does not necessarily mean a successful 5G deployment. Full 5G deployment will take much longer, and be much more complex than the previous network generation, in order to realize the benefits of 5G beyond eMBB (enhanced Mobile Broadband). And this is very costly, putting more pressure on global operators, which are already facing declining revenue and more price competition from MVNOs.”

Between 1981 and 2008, China lifted 600 million people out of poverty – has spurred remarkable growth in the country. Now the superpower is expected to lead the world in technology and innovation by the mid-2020s.

China’s top-down national agenda has moved the country ahead in 5G development in technology R&D, equipment, network, terminals, platform, to application development.

“Chinese operators’ investments in 5G will reach US$5 billion this year, and around 70,000 to 90,000 5G base stations will be built across the country. Among the three operators, China Mobile will be extending its market advantage, given its vast user base and financial strength,” said Canalys Analyst Mo Jia.

“China Mobile has the broadest 5G smartphone portfolio at launch. Given the government has just implemented the long-awaited mobile number portability policy, all three operators will be even more aggressive with promotions to target 5G early adopters and high-value customers later this year. Unsurprisingly, local Chinese brands, such as Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi and ZTE, are 5G handset launch partners for the three operators, while Samsung will also use this window of opportunity to fight back in China. Yet Apple will miss out, leaving loyal iPhone users waiting another year, which might risk them switching to aggressive competitors,” added Jia.

5G  opens up new possibilities to accelerate artificial intelligence, automation, robotics and the Internet of Things, therefore providing tremendous potential for China to lead the innovation wave of the 2020s – could result in the eventual displacement of the American empire by 2030.

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