5G spectrum assignment will continue to be a major hurdle for European and US carriers. Delays and expensive auctions have left European carriers with little money to expand their networks. However, Chinese firms can rely on extensive government support.

Listed below are the leading TMT trends in 5G, as identified by GlobalData.

5G will move from hype to reality, but use cases will still need to be defined

Despite a faster than expected roll-out worldwide and a leap in connectivity performance, there won’t be a massive uptake of 5G in 2020. GlobalData predicts that its traffic will account for 1.5% of the total data traffic across mobile networks, and subscriptions will be less than 1% of total mobile subscriptions in 2020.

China will race ahead in deployment, but the battle for supremacy won’t be over

In 2020 China will roll out 5G at a faster pace than the US. That will be mainly the result of Beijing’s unmatched investment in next-generation communication technologies and increasing influence over global standards. Being the first mover can be a catalyst for domination in other industries. This may include robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and autonomous driving. However, in the long run, the real advantage will come from the ability to offer innovative applications and services over the network.

Europe and the US will struggle to catch up with Asia due to delays in rollout

Coordination among governments, regulators, and communications service providers (CSPs) is critical if 5G is to be released on time and affordable. The auctions in 2018 and 2019 in Europe and the US were expensive and drawn out, delaying operators’ plans to build the infrastructure in 2020. Chinese CSPs, on the other hand, will continue to benefit from the government’s help in holding costs down and offering the spectrum almost for free. Europe will also have to balance the security risks associated with Huawei with the need to keep pace with deployment.

Competition will heat up in 5G-enabled phones

In 2020 Qualcomm will offer the world’s first integrated 5G platforms, providing broad coverage over large areas, higher speeds, and low latency. Xiaomi, Oppo, Lenovo, and Nokia are expected to be the first to market their smartphones with the latest Qualcomm chips. It will also be the year that Apple launches a 5G-enabled iPhone as it seeks to catch up with its biggest rivals in Asia (Samsung, Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi). Nokia will offer a more affordable device, while Xiaomi claims it will launch at least  ten 5G phones. Google is also expected to unveil its 5G phone.

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By GlobalData

This is an edited extract from the TMT Predictions 2020 – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.