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Nokia's first 5G phone could be your affordable route to next-gen speeds

The Nokia device, due next year, could make 5G more widely accessible.

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The next Nokia phone could come with 5G.

Angela Lang/CNET

Nokia phone maker HMD said on Thursday at IFA in Berlin that we can expect to see its very first 5G phone make an appearance in 2020. The phone will be both "affordable" and "premium," according to HMD CEO Florian Seiche, speaking at the company's press event.

Until now, 5G phones have for the most part been expensive, high-end devices (the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Note 10, for example). This has meant that if you want to take advantage of the faster networks that're currently being switched on all over the world, you need to splash to some serious cash. Over time, those prices will fall, making both 5G networks and the phones that work with them more affordable.

It looks like one of the first more-affordable devices on the market could be Nokia's 5G offering. HMD wouldn't give us any clues as to when, exactly, we should expect the phone, but its main launch event of the year usually occurs at the end of February at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The phone should be "something that's a bit more affordable than anybody that's out there today," said HMD Chief Product Officer Juho Sarvikas in an interview. But at the same time, he promised it'll offer a "great smartphone experience with some cool stuff in there."

It's not totally clear whether initially there'll be just one 5G Nokia phone or a range of devices, or whether we'll have to wait to see 5G Nokia phones across a spectrum of prices. "I don't think 5G is any different than 3G or 4G, in that it will over time scale across the whole portfolio," Sarvikas said. "It's just a matter of time really."

HMD is talking with carrier partners across the US and Europe about its 5G offering, said Sarvikas. When it comes to country-by-country availability for its 5G phone, HMD will be following the pattern of 5G networks as they switch on across the world.

Many countries have already launched their first 5G networks -- Germany hit the on switch on the same day as HMD's Berlin event -- but Sarvikas thinks that launching in 2020 rather than this year is better for Nokia phones, due to the emphasis on affordability. "I think we have a really good timing that suits our strategy and our journey as a company," he said.

Sarvikas also hinted that HMD might be willing to consider other design ideas for future Nokia phones, including foldables. "We'll definitely explore other avenues," he said. "From my perspective, the more screen you can provide in a compact form factor, the better; so I think it's really interesting avenue as well."