While mobile internet connections on 4G networks are quick enough for most average users, enabling them to stream HD video or download music, apps and games on the go, 5G, the next evolution of wireless networks, has already arrived and is expected to take off this year.

While Samsung and several other smartphone makers released their first 5G handsets in 2019, Apple jumped on the 5G bandwagen in the fall of 2020, bringing the new standard to the entire iPhone 12 product line. Having sold more smartphones in the last three months of 2020 than any company ever before in a single quarter, Apple’s 5G debut definitely provided a major boost to the new technology.

According to estimates from Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report, the number of 5G smartphone subscriptions worldwide will rise to 600 million by the end of this year, almost tripling from the 2020 total. By 2022, 5G subscriptions will become the de-facto standard, surpassing the one-billion mark according to Ericsson’s estimates.

How Fast Is 5G?

As Apple is getting ready to ship the new iPhone 12 this week, much has been written about the new iPhones’ standout feature: 5G. When introducing its latest line of smartphones at a virtual event on October 13, Apple put a lot of emphasis on its jump to 5G, which surprised many considering how late Apple is to the party. Not only have competing smartphone brands supported 5G for a while now, but 5G coverage is still mediocre at best in most countries, including the United States.

And while coverage remains an issue – 5G users are connected to 5G only 21 percent of the time in the U.S. and even more rarely in most European markets – the speed of the new networking standard is in fact a giant leap forward. According to an analysis conducted by Open Signal between July 1 and September 28 of 2020, 5G users often experience download speeds that are several times faster than 4G speeds. While that is also true for the United States, where 5G is 1.8 times faster than 4G on average, the U.S. trails other countries in speed overall, especially on 5G networks.

With respect to the new iPhones, many experts are warning that customers might be let down by current 5G performance, which, while not Apple’s fault, could tarnish initial reactions to the new devices. Typically making up around 60 percent of Apple’s revenue in the holiday quarter, iPhone sales are crucial to the company’s success, despite ongoing efforts on Apple’s side to reduce its reliance on the popular smartphone.

Who Is Leading the 5G Patent Race?
Who leads the global race for 5G? One way of answering this question is to analyze the number of 5G patents owned by different companies. Holding more than 15 percent of granted and active patents worldwide, Chinese manufacturer Huawei takes first place in a ranking complied by IPlytics.

As the patenting process can take several years, these percentages might still change as more patents are granted. While Huawei also launched the most application overall, U.S. company Qualcomm comes second when counting granted and open applications.

Manufacturers from South Korea, a country where 5G was implemented faster than almost anywhere else, find themselves towards the top of the list, as does one more Chinese provider, ZTE. Feature phone era companies Ericsson and Nokia are also making strides in 5G technology.