South Korea launched the world’s first commercial 5G service in 2019. In addition, South Korean smartphone manufacturers have enjoyed the highest share in the global smartphone market all the way since 2011. However, experts point out that the success is pointless.
At present, it is Huawei that is dominating the global 5G equipment market. The Chinese company has done so since 2019, when its market share amounted to 32.6 percent before edging down to 31.7 percent in 2020. Ericsson, Nokia and ZTE accounted for 29.2 percent, 18.7 percent and 11 percent of the market last year, when Samsung Electronics’ share stood at 7.2 percent.
In the first quarter of this year, Samsung Electronics supplied 17 million 5G smartphones to post a share of 12.7 percent. Meanwhile, Apple, Oppo and Vivo supplied 40.4 million, 21.6 million and 19.4 million 5G smartphones, respectively.
According to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), Huawei currently has 302 standard essential patents in the 5G industry, more than any others in it. Huawei’s 5G equipment is regarded as the best in the industry and yet it is approximately 30 percent less expensive than those of Samsung Electronics, Ericsson and Nokia.
Samsung Electronics is not sitting idle, either. It signed a US$6.64 billion contract with Verizon in September last year to supply 5G equipment and solutions. This year, it concluded similar contracts with NTT Docomo and SaskTel. The Canadian telecom operator used only Huawei equipment for its 3G and 4G services in the 2010s and 2020 but opted for Samsung Electronics for its 5G services.
Nonetheless, Huawei is still doing well, its home market is huge and Ericsson and Nokia are still hard to overtake. After the contract between Samsung Electronics and Verizon, Ericsson and Nokia signed similar contracts with the other major U.S. operators, that is, AT&T and T-Mobile.
More recently, the United States and Japan formed a partnership to invest US$4.5 billion for 5G and 6G R&D. Although Chinese, European and South Korean companies currently account for 90 percent of the global 5G equipment market, NTT Docomo and Qualcomm are in possession of 6 percent and 10 percent of 5G patents, respectively. The United States and Japan are likely to make use of the patents to develop 5G and 6G equipment on their own and take the lead in the global market.