Researchers in the Philippines expect 2021 to be a year of 5G opportunities and threats. Can consumers play their cards right?

This writer recently bought a 5G sim card with the hope that a stronger signal can be obtained in his location in the Philippines. He was misinformed in his objective: the 5G network requires a 5G-enabled smartphone.

Granted that there are second-hand 5G smartphones sold along the streets in Manila, but who wants a problem (or two) coming from the possible hidden defects of these used phones? Why not just wait for the moment when 5G smartphones will have their prices drop to manageable levels?

According to David McQueen, Research Director at research firm ABI, that the moment of lower-priced 5G smartphones is nearly upon us: “The accelerated migration of 5G to lower-tier smartphones will have a knock-on effect on average selling prices and the market’s overall profitability.”

This is due to the relatively-shortened time for those across the value chain to extract decent margins from the market, and the expectation that many manufacturers will start to follow an aggressive pricing strategy to avoid possible declines in overall profits.

“Furthermore, with the expected frantic pace of plunging 5G smartphone prices, it would be of little surprise if 2021 saw 5G smartphones fall below the US$200 mark, driven by the availability of cheaper components and pricing policies of chipset vendors,” said McQueen.

Moving to RFFEs

The new year is also one in which 5G communications will necessitate the shift to Radio Frequency Front End filters for improved handset performance baselines.

In the next 18 months, even as the market for 5G devices is expected to expand, the same goes for cellular innovation. McQueen expects that “the captive smartphone OEMs will be most keenly observed as they move from modem and/or application processor-led to encompass the RF in the future. These vendors all still lack key RF components in their portfolios and, as they will want to reduce their dependence on a single vendor, they will be obliged to extend their captivity to the RF business.”

NHNs to extend 5G networks

In the Philippines, Neutral Host Networks (NHNs) enable improved cellular connectivity in places that are difficult for the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to reach directly. An example of such a place is the provincial hometown of this writer, where it is indeed difficult to gain a signal even with a 5G sim card. This can be ameliorated with NHN technology that telcos can ride on. 

Another ABI senior analyst, Johanna Alvarado, addressed that concern: “With the traffic transition toward rural and residential areas, neutral hosts can create networks that enable cellular connectivity indoors in different multi-tenant building sizes, with collaborative work with MNOs enabling the first business models and technical definitions of the neutral host networks.”

There is some concern, however, that the deployment of 5G indoors may be delayed.

5G adoption will likely strain the environment

Besides the increase in electronic waste that will naturally result from manufacturers’ 5G pursuits, there will also be increased carbon footprints caused by usage and energy consumption.

ABI’s Jun Fei We explained: “The transition [to 5G] will potentially create large amounts of electronic waste and it is crucial that operators and manufacturers do more to encourage recycling and the use of recycled materials in their 5G operations and developments. In addition, energy consumption could increase tremendously as the higher speeds encourage more usage among consumers and applications. It is prudent that Research and Development be directed at reducing energy consumption and carbon footprints in the telecommunications industry.” For better and for worse, meaning with good and bad effects, the accelerated growth of 5G will be a part of next year’s digital landscape. It is up to us to maximize the benefits from it while pressuring commerce to ensure ecological accountability.