As I walked the halls of MWC 19 last week, and expected the numerous booths, two things stuck out to me. One, that MWC is still as busy as ever, and two that everyone is jumping on the 5G bandwagon.

While some are further along their 5G roadmap than others, it appears as if any company with even the smallest connection to telecoms is looking to how the broadband standard will deliver value for their business.

Much like cloud computing and IoT then, it seems that 5G is the next megatrend we’ll be talking about for the foreseeable future.

This brings us to an interesting presentation that took place at the Lenovo booth, as research firm CSS Insight unpacked a handful of predictions it has made in its latest Connected World report, focusing on 5G in particular.

The presentation was made by CSS Insight’s CEO, Shaun Collins, and chief of research, Ben Wood, both of whom have specific knowledge of the EMEA region.

The race to roll out

Right now the race is on, according to CSS Insight, with regions and countries across the globe looking to have their respective 5G networks up and running by the year’s end.

In terms of the different areas of the globe, the United States is expected to be first, then followed by China, the UK and then a handful of countries in Europe.

As for South Africa’s outlook, an end of 2019 timeframe has also been tentatively touted, with Huawei and Rain already slating their commercial network’s roll out by the middle of the year. Whether other carriers follow suit, remains to be seen.

In terms of which region will be leading the way, the Middle East is anticipated to be the global pioneers in this regard, with countries in the area said to be the most advanced when it comes to 5G availability.

This makes sense, especially as STC (Saudi Telecom Company) has not been shy in listing its ambitions.

Devices, devices, devices

Along with 5G networks and ecosystems, MWC 19 also saw a number of 5G-supporting devices see the light of day. While many were on display, pinning down precise launch dates has proved a far tougher task, with the United States the only country earmarked to receive the first batch of 5G phones in coming weeks.

Once 5G networks are set up across the globe, however, expect this initial hesitance to fall away, as CSS Insight predicts more than 100 million shipped 5G devices by 2022.

Interestingly, despite a high volume of devices being shipped within the next three years, it appears as if consumer sentiment for 5G phones is mixed at best at the moment. According to CSS Insight, a large chunk of consumers are indeed intrigued by 5G technology, but are not keen on paying an extra premium for it.

CSS Insight says this premium is unavoidable though, with the services and solutions tied to 5G carrying additional costs that carriers and networks will try to bake into their consumer-focused packages.

Added to this the quality of service made available on 5G will make consumers highly reluctant to shift back to 4G / LTE.

Rise of secondhand phones 

Sticking with phones, CSS Insight then provided an interesting prediction for the future of the smartphone market, with secondhand demand set to rise sharply in 2021.

This as the price tags for flagship phones continue to rise. Consequently consumers will be looking to make their buying decision based on how much money they can sell the device for secondhand, as opposed to its recommended retail price.

Should such a prediction come to fruition, it could prove quite worthwhile for the South African market, especially as most recent flagship devices support 4G, which is available across the country, and the price of phones is only rising significantly of late.

Foldable to remain niche

The final aspect of mobile that CSS Insight touched on, and one that was too on display at MWC 19 was foldable displays. We saw both Huawei and Samsung showcase their wares in this regard, but the research firm says this newly created market segment will remain niche until 2022.

The reason for this prediction is the number of different for factors that manufacturers will experiment with until they settle on the best possible one. You need only look at how many interpretations of the simple candy bar shaped phone there have been, for an indication of the tinkering that foldable devices will go through.

Another reason for its niche status is the fact that the foldable display technology is still very expensive, explains CSS Insight. As such it remains out of reach for most consumers, even those who regularly purchase flagship phones.