Wireless Companies Hope New Apple iPhone Launch Jumpstarts 5G Adoption

Telecom executives whose companies are spending billions of dollars implementing 5G technologies hope Apple’s new 5G-capable iPhone will amplify what so far has been muted consumer interest in the faster networks, the Financial Times reports.

“The iPhone is more important than any device, even though we have great devices already from Samsung and others,” Johan Wibergh, chief technology officer of Vodafone, which operates 5G networks in seven European countries, told the paper.

The fifth-generation technology referred to as 5G is much faster than the fourth generation, or 4G, technology widely used today. But it tends to be available around city centers, and mobile devices don’t yet have many applications that require it to function well. Experts told the Financial Times the industry is waiting for the development of what are casually referred to among the technically hip as “killer apps” to spur consumers to upgrade their phones.

The Financial Times quoted Jan Stryjak of Counterpoint Research as having said 2 million 5G devices were sold in Europe in July — which is a bigger share of the overall smartphone market than a year ago, but still only 11 percent. That’s “still a long way from what is expected from a technology that has now been around for more than a year in many markets,” the paper quoted him as having said.

In an interview with Reuters, Boris Metodiev, associate director of research firm Strategy Analytics, said using 5G-enabled devices — even iPhones — is similar to “having a Ferrari … but using it in your local village and you can’t drive to up to 200 miles per hour, simply because the roads cannot maintain those speeds.”

Bloomberg reported on Sept. 3 that Apple ordered 75 million 5G iPhones prior to unveiling its new lineup on Oct. 13. Bloomberg reported that 1.5 billion iPhones are in use worldwide.

Apple is betting in particular that 5G iPhones will sell well in China, the Wall Street Journal reported the day after Apple’s launch event for the phone.