5G Nokia phones unlikely to arrive until 2020, but more US phones are on the way

The CEO of Nokia phone manufacturer HMD says the US is a "laser focus" for the company this year.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
2 min read

Five cameras, but no five 5G.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Nokia phone maker HMD brought five phones to Mobile World Congress this year, and one of them even had five cameras. But not a single one of them had 5G .

5G Nokia phones are coming, said HMD CEO Florian Seiche in an interview with CNET at the show on Sunday in Barcelona, but probably not until 2020. The company is working with Qualcomm to bring 5G devices to market, but isn't necessarily busting its gut to join the first wave of phones.

"We believe that this year is literally the first introduction round, so we think probably early next year is a good time for a mass-market 5G rollout in the key markets where we see an opportunity like Western Europe and the US," said Seiche.

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As the next generation of network technology, 5G is set to improve capacity, latency and speed of mobile networks, offering opportunities for the growth of smart cities, autonomous vehicles and virtual and augmented reality. But those same qualities mean it's also set to take the mobile internet experience people enjoy today to the next level, and the introduction of the technology this year means that it's big news at MWC 2019.

Much of the mobile world is charging ahead with 5G network rollout and the introduction of early devices compatible with those networks -- but industry insiders are touting 2020 as the year when consumer adoption of the new tech will really take off. And HMD is hardly the phone maker not rushing to jump on the 5G bandwagon. Apple is unlikely to bring out its 5G iPhone until next year, based on the availability of 5G modems from its preferred chipmaker.

HMD is also standing firm on its promise to target the mass market with a solid midrange selection of phones. Unlike many phone makers, which are starting to push their most expensive phones over the $1,000 price mark, Nokia phones are all priced at under $700. This isn't a company taking aim at high-roller early adopters.

The US market, however, is very much in its sights. HMD brought all-new Nokia to the US for the first time last year with Nokia 6 , and announced carrier partnerships with Verizon , Cricket and Rogers at the start of this year.

"The US is definitely is our laser focus for this year and for sure," said Seiche. "The market dynamics allowed us to enter that market faster than we were thinking."

The aim for now is to deepen the partnerships the company has already built, but that doesn't mean HMD won't look to other carriers to offer Nokia phones too.

"We definitely want to capture as much of the US opportunity as fast as possible," said Seiche. "I can't announce any new partnerships today, but we are very much focused on the US."

Watch this: Nokia 9 PureView goes crazy with five rear cameras