A 5G phone boom is coming, but maybe not until 2022

After last year's decline for the global mobile phone market, Gartner foresees recovery.

Rae Hodge Former senior editor
Rae Hodge was a senior editor at CNET. She led CNET's coverage of privacy and cybersecurity tools from July 2019 to January 2023. As a data-driven investigative journalist on the software and services team, she reviewed VPNs, password managers, antivirus software, anti-surveillance methods and ethics in tech. Prior to joining CNET in 2019, Rae spent nearly a decade covering politics and protests for the AP, NPR, the BBC and other local and international outlets.
Rae Hodge

By 2023, 5G handsets could account for 50% of all mobile phones shipped.

Arne Dedert/DPA/AFP via Getty Images

5G mobile phones are projected to capture a growing slice of the global market over the next two years. On Tuesday, researchers at Gartner said they expect to see 5G phone models account for 12% of mobile phone shipments worldwide in 2020, increasing to 43% by 2022 as handset prices drop and 5G coverage zones expand.

If those projections are accurate, the overall phone market would grow by 1.7% in 2020, a recovery from the 2% decline seen in smartphone shipments through 2019. China and emerging Asian markets are expected to drive increases in the next year, according to Gartner.

"2020 will witness a slight market recovery," Gartner research senior director Ranjit Atwal said in a release. "Increased availability of 5G handsets will boost mobile phone replacements, which will lead global device shipments to return to growth in 2020."

5G promises to significantly boost the speed, coverage and responsiveness of wireless networks, and it could have major implications for how we live. The next-generation networks are finally live in the US, but they're not perfect. The biggest drawbacks of 5G today are spotty coverage in relatively few cities and expensive, limited devices

By 2023, 5G handsets will account for 50% of all mobile phones shipped, Atwal said. 

Read more: 5G global revenues to double by 2020, report says

Watch this: T-Mobile's new 5G network is here, we go hands on

Phones at CES 2020: Cheap, shiny, 5G and concepts

See all photos

Originally published Jan. 21.
Update, Jan. 22: Adds more background on 5G.