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New Delhi: 5G smartphone shipment is expected to rise more than nine times to reach 38 million units in 2021, driven by a strong portfolio of products from brands like OnePlus and Apple, according to research firm Counterpoint.

Counterpoint noted that India's smartphone market was one of the fastest to recover after COVID-19-induced restrictions were lifted all over the world in the third quarter of 2020. The market recorded its best quarter ever in the September 2020 quarter in terms of shipments, riding on the pent-up demand and the emergence of newer use cases.

"Q1 2020 witnessed the first 5G smartphone launch in India. However, high prices and non-availability of 5G networks ensured slow pick-up in 5G smartphone sales. Things started changing after the launch of the mid-priced OnePlus Nord in August 2020," the report said.

It added that India's 5G shipments stood at 1.7 million at the end of September 2020 quarter and this is projected to cross 4 million by the end of 2020.

"These shipments were driven by two brands – OnePlus, the only brand with a 100 per cent 5G portfolio, and Apple, which launched the iPhone 12 series with 5G connectivity. Going forward, 5G smartphone shipments are expected to increase by more than nine times to reach 38 million units in 2021," Counterpoint said.

The research firm said the key to higher adoption of 5G smartphones is bringing their prices below the 20,000 (around USD 275) mark given that 89 per cent of all the smartphones shipped to India in January-November 2020 had a price lower than 20,000.

The lowest-priced 5G device currently costs 20,999 (around USD 285), it said, adding that availability of cheaper 5G chipsets will make it feasible for OEMs (handset brands) to bring down the price.

Qualcomm and MediaTek, the biggest chipset vendors, have unveiled affordable 5G chipsets.

"The market in India is price-sensitive and OEMs aggressively try to undercut the competition. It is a matter of time before this intense competition pushes the cost of entry-level 5G phone below the 20,000 mark. We estimate these devices to hit the 15,000 mark by the third quarter of 2021, which also marks the arrival of India's festive season and the related e-commerce sales," Counterpoint said.

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