Caution of big beasts holding back Europe's 5G rollout, claims new report

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Europe has taken another hammering for its 5G deployment plans, with a new report arguing the region's unambitious big beasts are dragging back the dreams of the smaller players.

CCS Insight has predicted 5G connections with hit 340 million in 2021 and will cross the one billion mark in the first half of 2023. 

By 2025, more than one connection in every five worldwide will be to a 5G network or 2.7 billion in total.

Principal Analyst Kester Mann said there has been a greater urgency of late among European operators in their 5G deployment plans. He cited Telia's launch of a pre-commercial 5G network in Helsinki last week, ahead of a full offering next year. It was the first to launch commercial LTE in 2009.

Other notable operators in their plans have been Elisa, TIM, BT, Swisscom and Telenor, he added, which was a sign that 5G would be a market reality quicker than was previous assumed.

However, he said larger operators such as Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica and Vodafone were more cautious in their approach, committing to commercial launches in 2020.

Mann added: "While Europe may still be around a year adrift of the leading markets in 5G, some regional operators are clearly determined to launch commercial services as soon as next year...Once networks are launched, the motivation to bring users onto them will be huge."

CCS has predicted there will be more than 20 million 5G connections by the end of 2020, growing fivefold to broach the 100 million mark two years later.

The report also upgraded its outlook for China, widely predicted to be the biggest adopter of 5G. The earlier than expected launch of 5G by China Mobile, a potential refocusing of Chinese vendor giants Huawei and ZTE in the face of geopolitical tensions and the rumoured merger of China Telecom and China Unicom could boost 5G across the country.

It predicted China will be the biggest 5G market in 2020, with 40 million connections, growing to more than one billion by 2025, when it will account for four in every ten connections globally.

The launch of 5G could prove good news for manufacturers of Android handsets, with the major players expected to enter the market by late 2019. Despite Apple coming to the market later than others, there will be 60 million 5G-ready smartphones sold in 2019, growing to half a billion by 2021.

Marina Koytcheva, VP of forecasting at CCS Insight, said: "A stagnant device market in 2018, especially in affluent countries, means that Android smartphone makers will jump at the opportunity to offer some innovation in the hope of tempting people to replace their phone next year."