- ZTE announced it would release a 5G smartphone in late 2018 or early 2019.
- The company’s plans are dependent on 5G network rollouts and chipsets.
- ZTE would be one of the first companies to release a 5G smartphone.
ZTE might not have had a strong presence during CES 2018, but Lixin Cheng, the CEO of the company’s US arm, still made a splash by announcing ZTE will launch a 5G-capable smartphone by early 2019.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Cheng confirmed the device would be introduced either in late 2018 or early 2019, though that depends on availability of 5G networks and the requisite chipsets. There is currently no wide availability of a 5G network, though AT&T and Verizon announced they would begin rolling out their respective 5G networks by the end of 2018.
Meanwhile, Sprint said it aims to commercialize 5G services by late 2019. The carrier also looks to reach 5G through its deployment of its 2.5 GHz Massive MIMI radios, which will be software-upgradeable to 5G NR, sometime in 2018.
Finally, T-Mobile looks to deploy its 5G network in 2020, which would put the carrier in somewhat of an awkward position in terms of 5G networking.
So yes, support for 5G is a bit all over the place, which will affect ZTE’s plans. Also affecting the company’s aims is Qualcomm, which develops the new chips that take advantage of the upcoming network.
A potentially larger roadblock, however, is a recently-proposed bill that would ban Huawei and ZTE services in the US. Even though the bill is in its earliest stages and still has to navigate through the red tape that is the US government, it pushes the notion that Chinese companies like ZTE is bad news for the US.
The potential obstacle has not dissuaded ZTE from possibly launching a 5G-capable tablet or wireless-internet hub for homes, in addition to its 5G smartphone.
Regardless of the device, ZTE will likely be one of the first companies to launch a 5G smartphone, but that is not to say others do not have plans of their own. For example, Samsung partnered with Verizon to deploy 5G internet in some California homes, while Apple is reportedly working closely with Intel for 5G networking on future iPhones.