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Will Qualcomm’s chipsets pave the way for affordable 5G phones?

Qualcomm is one of the leading telecom chipset makers in the world. Its chipsets are used in a majority of Android phones. Apple also uses Qualcomm modems in its iPhones that are shipped across the globe. By introducing the mid-range Snapdragon 765, Qualcomm is on its way to making affordable 5G phones a reality.

The 5G phones currently on the market come with exorbitant price tags, for example, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G retails for £1,099. The lack of affordable 5G phones has been a hindrance to consumer adoption (along with deployment timelines and consumer education). HMD and Lenovo will be the first manufacturers to launch mid-range 5G phones across regions in early 2020.

The Snapdragon 765 also includes an in-built modem (for connecting to the internet), unlike the premium 865. The integrated modem on the 765 will offer better power efficiency and room for bigger batteries on mid-range phones. For example, Lenovo uses a mid-range processor in its $1,500 (£1,159) foldable Razr which sacrifices speed to maintain the thin structure of the phone and better battery life.

OEMs and carriers are on board with Qualcomm

Lenovo will launch a 5G phone featuring both the Snapdragon 865 and 765 chipsets in early 2020, as will Xiaomi, Oppo and HMD’s Nokia. Lenovo has struggled under the onslaught of Samsung and Apple flagships in the US market. However, an affordable 5G phone will provide Lenovo with a first-to-market advantage. This will allow it to stand out among the clutter of smartphones.

HMD needs carrier distribution to succeed in the US as well as a cheaper 5G phone. However, the Nokia brand will enable carrier support (and promotional dollars), putting Nokia back on the American wireless map. HMD and Lenovo’s 5G phones will also provide US carriers with alternate OEM options compared with Huawei or Xiaomi or Oppo, and allow them to sidestep the governmental swamp of US-China trade relations.

More affordable 5G phones in 2020

AT&T has confirmed that it will launch affordable 5G phones priced between $500 (£386) and $700 (£541) by 2020. The company also said that 15 per cent of its device portfolio will be 5G phones across price tiers by the end of 2020. By 2021-2022, 5G phones will have spread to more than 80 per cent of its device portfolio. Sprint has also announced that it will be launching 5G devices under $500 starting 2020.

Qualcomm has done its part in accelerating affordable 5G hardware. Now it’s up to the carriers to hasten the deployment of 5G services. 2020 will be the ramp up year for 5G as more smartphones become available across price tiers and as coverage grows across regions.

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