While the rollout of 5G-capable mobile devices was slow to start, NPD’s Mobile Phone Tracking Service expects U.S. consumers to upgrade devices this year.

NPD said 5G smartphone sales in the U.S. “accounted for less than 1 percent of devices in 2019, but saw strong growth from the first half of the year to the second driven by the introduction of new products from Samsung, LG and OnePlus, as well as an increasing number of markets with 5G coverage.”

Researchers at the firm said the number of 5G devices increased ninefold from the first half of 2019 to the second half of the year.

NPD stated in the report that 5G awareness in the second half of 2019 “reached nearly nine in 10 consumers (89 percent), up from 73 percent in the first half of the year.”

“In addition to growing awareness, 65 percent of consumers in 2H 2019 reported interest in purchasing a 5G smartphone, with only 15 percent saying they were ‘not at all interested.'”

Brad Akyuz, executive director and industry analyst at NPD Connected Intelligence, said smartphone pricing “and lack of clear-use case for 5G were the main obstacles to purchase in 2019, but we expect this to change in 2020.”

The launch of fifth-generation cellular technology and devices is expected to be a “game-changer,” according to industry analysts, who expect the improved bandwidth — on par with current broadband offerings — to benefit consumers, businesses, NGOs and governments. For retailers and fashion brands, 5G will mean improved capabilities for not only offering shoppers faster web sites and higher definition video content, but also operational functions such as digitalizing the supply chain.

A Goldman Sachs report said, for consumers, the benefits of 5G include sourcing mobile and home broadband services from the same carrier. Analysts at the company said more consumers will also be able to have access. Goldman Sachs estimates that about 1 billion homes globally who do not currently have fixed connections will be able to connect with 5G.

Verizon noted earlier this month that its 5G Ultra Wideband will meet the capacity needs of the Internet of Things, or IoT, as well as the demands for faster speeds and higher capacity due to the growth of virtual and augmented reality technologies.

The current outbreak of the coronavirus has also put a spotlight on the needs for faster speeds and capacity as companies across various business segments switch from live, in-person events and meetings to digital and live-streamed ones. But there’s still a way to go before consumers and businesses upgrade their devices.

Akyuz said in the NPD report, though, that as 5G becomes a standard feature “in flagship models and more affordable 5G mid-tier device options debut, 5G adoption will grow and potentially begin to drive upgrade cycles.”

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