5G device sales forecast to hit 46.5 million by 2026

With the rise of always-on 5G portable devices, an explosion of edge AI adoption, the proliferation of smart manufacturing platforms and the emergence of the metaverse, industry is set for a sharp rise in mmWave smartphone sales

A study from ABI Research has highlighted how the Covid-19 pandemic has quickened the pace of digital transformation, which shows no signs of slowing down, placing technologies such as always-on 5G portable devices at the very centre of how people live and work.

And in a new research posting, 38 technology stats you need to know for 2022, ABI said that among the most impactful forecasts showing the direction in which digital transformation is heading will be the launch of dozens of always-on 5G portable device models in 2022, with sales exceeding 12 million by the end of the year. This figure is set to grow to 46.5 million by 2026, it said.

Looking at drivers for this market, ABI observed that the always-on 5G connected portable device market, including tablets and notebooks, will be buoyed by the emergence of new types of mobile business application specifically designed for such devices, as well as access to what it called a “plethora” of online mobile applications that can be ported from the smartphone world.

“The rise of always-on 5G portable devices, an explosion of edge artificial intelligence adoption, a proliferation of smart manufacturing platforms, the formation of the metaverse and a growing concentration on cyber security are just some of the many changes on the horizon,” said Stuart Carlaw, chief research officer at ABI Research. “These are indicative of a more connected, more vulnerable and, ultimately, more technology-driven world.”

The research also found that cellular connected tablets and notebooks have accounted for only a small proportion of sales, less than 1%, because of their mostly nomadic use case and high price differential. However, ABI said the advent of 5G could bring always-on broadband experiences on the move to new device types beyond smartphones.

“For the convergence of the mobile and notebook industries to happen, they will both have to position 5G connectivity as a central feature of the design, with a focus on improved system performance, long battery life, thin and light designs, and always-on, always-connected experiences,” said ABI research director David McQueen.

The analyst said the global 5G smartphone market saw phenomenal growth in 2021, reaching more than 580 million units. But in what could be a huge development for the 5G industry, ABI forecast that shipments of mmWave-enabled phones will grow from 14% of 5G smartphone sales in 2021 to a 43% share by 2026. The increase in sales was driven by an acceleration down the price tiers that improved both affordability and adoption, said McQueen.

“The increase in 5G mmWave smartphone sales will be boosted by its inclusion in greater numbers of smartphone models, driven by Samsung’s flagship devices and Apple’s iPhones, as well as by expanding ecosystem momentum,” he added. “After a slow start, mainly limited to the US market, the impetus behind mobile mmWave continues to build, with several regions and countries targeting deployments, broadening across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, and gaining support from a growing number of chipset suppliers.”

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