There has been a lot of talk about 5G over the past few years, and the next-gen wireless technology is now materializing. 3GPP came out with the first set of standards for 5G last year, and now that they’ve been more or less set, telecom equipment manufacturers and wireless modem manufacturers can begin to design products based on them. Indeed, Qualcomm and Intel have both announced 5G modems which they plan on releasing sometime this year or next year.
ZTE, a China-based smartphone and telecom equipment manufacturer, plans to release its first 5G smartphone by early 2019, reports Bloomberg. Lixin Cheng, chief executive officer of ZTE’s mobile business, said that plans could change based on the availability of 5G networks and the supply of compatible chipsets, but added that a 5G tablet or home internet hub were possibilities, too.
A lot of telecom operators in the US have talked about the possibility of deploying fixed wireless 5G in several states, and it isn’t unreasonable to expect ZTE to produce customer-premise equipment as well. Considering that ZTE doesn’t make its own modems, though, it’s pretty much reliant on Qualcomm and Intel for the necessary components. And Qualcomm and Intel sell their modems to a wide variety of smartphone manufacturers, so ZTE may not necessarily be the first with a 5G phone.
ZTE is a major force in the telecommunications sector, and has been an active participant in the 5G standards deliberation process. The lack of a homegrown modem puts ZTE at a disadvantage, but it should be able to capitalize on its telecom equipment expertise in order to gain the upper hand against rivals like Huawei.
Which smartphone manufacturer makes it first to market with 5G remains to be seen, but the collective might of the smartphone and telecom industry rallying behind one standard is an encouraging sign, to say the least. It creates vast economies of scale that lower prices and facilitate interoperability, and that’s a good thing. After all, no one wants a CDMA vs. GSM or EVDO vs. WCDMA-type scenario with 5G.