Why Europe’s carriers are jonesing for Apple’s 5G iPhones

From Counterpoint’s “New iPhone to Give European 5G a Much-needed Shot in the Arm” posted Wednesday:

5G rollouts are gathering speed across Europe. There are currently 45 live 5G networks across 20 countries in the region[1], including four markets with “full” launches – i.e. markets where all incumbent operators have launched 5G networks (Austria, Finland, Spain and the UK). 32 more operators in a further 13 countries have announced plans to launch, leaving only a handful of markets (mostly in Eastern Europe) yet to board the 5G train.

[Yet] 5G device sales are yet to take off in Europe. Across the region, just under 2 million 5G devices were sold in July, which is 11% of the total. While this represents steady growth (up from 7% in May), it is still a long way from what is expected from a technology that has now been around for over a year in many markets…

The biggest reason, though, is a dearth of 5G devices. The Samsung S20 family has done well, selling almost 2.5 million units since launch. However, there are not really any other big-name flagships available: the Huawei P40 is struggling due to the lack of GMS and pervasive anti-China sentiment, while other brands like Xiaomi, OnePlus and OPPO are suffering from a lack of brand power…

This all changed on October 13 when Apple finally unveiled the iPhone 12 following COVID-19 related delays. Apple’s latest device is 5G enabled, meaning that all major vendors now have a 5G device in their portfolios. More importantly though, a 5G iPhone is a huge boost for markets where Apple is particularly strong. In the UK, Germany and France for example, iPhones account for 30-40% of the installed base, and the share is typically even higher among high value users: the key target audience for 5G. This is a significant proportion that has so far remained untapped by 5G.

One disappointment, though, is that mmWave is only supported by US models, which means Europeans will have to make do without the fastest 5G speeds…

My take: Seems like Apple’s given Europeans a good reason to wait. Meanwhile, from another universe, this paragraph …

Another reason is the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories about 5G, ranging from health concerns over the frequencies used in 5G radios (demonstrating a lack of understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum) to the notion that 5G is the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic (demonstrating a lack of understanding of physics, biology, reality, you name it). However ridiculous these ideas are, they have the power to sow doubt in people’s minds, which is not helping at all.


  1. Bart Yee said:
    As usual, it takes Apple to truly validate a new technology that has been introduced yet hasn’t hit mainstream. While the EU/UK carriers roll out their networks and spectrum, Apple has built them a ready and willing user base with 5G capable hardware able to handle all known and future 5G bands. Since mmWave will take more time in Europe, when that spectrum is finally ready, you can be sure Apple have a new phone capable and ready for their market. Likely will offer a low band 5G trade in program too.

    I think we will see Samsung’s paltry 2.5M unit 5G lead go poof. China has already given Apple that much in pre-orders and US upgraders will turn on the 5G afterburners even if the networks are still in their infancy.

    October 17, 2020
    • David Emery said:
      I’m reminded of a story from Tracy Kidder’s “Soul of a New Machine,” about Data General and the minicomputer market. IBM ran an ad saying “IBM legitimizes the minicomputer market.” Data General ran a competing ad, “Dear IBM, the bastards say ‘welcome’! ” 🙂

      It would be interesting to know how much of the Apple implementation of 5G is “software defined radio” versus stuff done in hardware. Even antennas can be somewhat tuned by software these days…

      And to Kirk’s comment below: This is what distinguishes this group from ANALysts and the financial blogosphere. People here aren’t afraid to apologize if they get it wrong.

      October 17, 2020
      • Hugh Lovell said:
        I highly recommend Tracy Kidder’s Soul of a New Machine. It’s about the development of Data General’s first 32-bit mini-computer. Hiring the staff, fighting for resources, designing the hardware, writing the micro-code. Vivid characters, excellent writing. The book was essential for me because at the time I read it, I actually managed a pair of DG Eclipses; the 32-bit machines being designed in the book.

        October 17, 2020
  2. Fred Stein said:
    It makes sense. One could assume that the 11% penetration of 5G in July represents nearly all the Android premium phone market.

    iPhone 12 will break records in EU.

    October 17, 2020
  3. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    Not that I enjoy bringing this up, but I need to eat a little crow.

    I stated awhile back on this blog that I believed Apple would NOT release an iPhone with 5G this year due primarily to 5G’s limited implementation and that next year things would be much more ripe for introduction.

    Swing and a miss.

    My only save-face is that Apple at least future-proofed all the new iPhone 12s with the broadest of 5G radio capabilities not to mention their software based ability to automatically flip-flop between LTE and 5G based on which service in a particular area is fastest.

    If you build it, they will come?

    October 17, 2020
  4. Joe Murphy said:
    @ Kirk, …eat a little crow.

    Don’t we all. From time to time, we all miss. It does us good to recall we all miss, only because we take our swing, make our voice heard. Thank you for acknowledging it.

    October 17, 2020
    • Kirk DeBernardi said:
      @ Joe Murphy —

      Thanks Joe. Appreciate it.

      As they used to say in the waaaaaaay back when —

      “At your service, sir”.


      October 17, 2020

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