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NEW DELHI: Global sales of 5G smartphones surpassed those of 4G sets for the first time in January, according to a report by market analytics firm Counterpoint Research. The company noted that demand for 5G phones were driven primarily from regions like China, North America, and Europe. However, these devices are picking up momentum in India too.

“5G smartphones contributed 16% to the total smartphone sales in 2021 (in India), up from 3% in 2020. We forecast that in 2022, 5G penetration will reach roughly 40%," said Karn Chauhan, senior research analyst at Counterpoint Research. “We are also expecting to cross the 50% mark in Q4 2022 if 5G phone prices trickle-down to sub 12,000 segments."

The Nokia India Mobile Broadband report, published on 15 March, also noted that India has 10 million active 5G devices, even though networks aren’t available.

In comparison, 5G smartphones accounted for 84% of all sales in China in January, due to a major push from telecom operators and original equipment makers (OEMs) who flooded the market with aggressively priced devices.

Counterpoint has attributed the growth in 5G smartphones to affordable chipsets launched by Qualcomm and MediaTek, which allowed OEMs to offer 5G chips on devices in the mid- to high- ($250-400) segment. The affordable to mid-segment ($150-250) accounted for 20% of 5G smartphone sales globally.

In Western Europe and North America, 5G smartphones accounted for 76% and 73%, respectively, of overall sales. Apple dominated both markets accounting for 30% of all 5G sales in Western Europe and 50% in North America.

Analysts at Counterpoint feel these two regions will continue to see growing demand for 5G devices as there is a higher demand for 5G upgrades among iPhone users.

However, they expect the next big expansion in 5G sales to come from Asia-Pacific, Middle East, and Latin America as OEMs will push more 5G devices in these regions. "5G models in the sub-$150 price segment are the sweet spot for these regions, which are currently dominated by 4G."

According to Counterpoint, 5G systems on chips (SoCs) currently cost more than $20. Once its price drops below $20, more 5G smartphones will start rolling out in the budget segment.

Growth in sales of 5G smartphones in markets such as India where 5G services are yet to be available to consumers is driven by a push from chipmakers who are prioritising 5G chips. Also, many are buying in anticipation that it will be launched soon, as per another market researcher GfK, which had also predicted that 5G smartphones will account for 40% of total sales in 2022.

The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) is expected to hold auctions for the 5G spectrum sometime this year. All major telcos have already conducted 5G trials across India.

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