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eMBB ushers in the age of 5G

December 2, 2019

The demand and excitement for the latest next generation mobile technology is growing as users now demand increased data throughput on their devices, enhanced signal reliability, and better coverage. Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) will enable 5G to do this by focusing on data-driven use cases that require high rates of data across a large coverage area mainly through mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, Mi-Fi, and wearables. ABI Research forecasts that shipments of eMBB enabled mobile devices will increase from 15 million in 2019 to 1 billion in 2024, at a CAGR of 132.4%.

“Initially, eMBB is an extension of 4G LTE, relying on the previous generation network to provide the advantages of implementing 5G. Smartphones and Mi-Fi devices are getting the technology first as these devices are the ones that typically provide cellular connectivity throughout the day. Other device types expected to see the technology integrated from 2020 onward,” said Stephanie Tomsett, Research Analyst at ABI Research.

Multiple companies have already released 5G devices, with more expected to continue to reach the market. In terms of eMBB 5G devices, smartphones will dominate, with roughly 87% of 5G mobile device shipments in 2024. Companies including Huawei, Lenovo, LG, Oppo, Samsung, Vivo, Xiaomi, and ZTE already offer 5G devices, with Apple yet to release a 5G smartphone. Several Mi-Fi devices have also been released, including those from HTC, Inseego, Motorola, and ZTE. Lenovo has confirmed that is working with Qualcomm to develop a 5G laptop.

As the 5G technology evolves to no longer rely on 4G, mobile devices will continue to require more components and more processing capabilities, with particular emphasis on reducing the impact made on the form factor. A few suppliers have developed multiple 5G modems and platforms for various mobile device types across the price tiers, including Qualcomm and MediaTek, although not all have yet reached commercial deployment. Additionally, some device manufacturers develop their own chipsets, with 5G versions now added to their line-ups, to be used for their own devices, including Huawei and Samsung (the latter of which also uses Qualcomm’s 5G chipsets in some regions). With its acquisition of Intel’s smartphone modem business, Apple may be expected to adopt the same strategy in 2020.

“To stand alone from 4G LTE, 5G technology will require a greater number of RF and RFFE components such as transceivers, amplifiers, trackers, antennas, and MIMO systems, which could lead to substantial changes in the design of smartphones. All the new components need to be added to ensure that 5G works correctly, but if that comes at the expense of device size, form factor, or battery life, then the consumer user experience will be compromised and demand hampered. Device manufacturers need to work tightly with modem and component suppliers to ensure that 5G can deliver on its promise and fit to expected eMBB device specifications,” Tomsett concludes.

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