The company said Greater China — a term that covers mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Taiwan — would account for 34.0% of the 5G smartphone shipments in 2023, followed by North America (18.8%) and the Asia Pacific region at 17.4%.
Government initiatives to drive 5G development are seen as a factor accounting for the faster rollout in some markets. "There was a phenomenal amount of 5G discussion at this year’s MWC Shanghai, with Chinese 5G licences granted a year earlier than planned," said Nicole Peng, vice-president of Mobility at Canalys.
"The role of the Chinese Government and the well-orchestrated joint investments of operators and equipment suppliers were critical to this earlier commercial launch."
“5G smartphones will see rapid adoption in China, thanks to a strong government technology roadmap and operators’ financial capabilities," Peng said.
"China is also home to many major 5G equipment suppliers and smartphone vendors, which will be responsible for an aggressive marketing push over the next few years.
“But mass-market adoption of 5G smartphones does not necessarily mean a successful 5G deployment. Full 5G deployment will take much longer, and be much more complex than the previous network generation, in order to realise the benefits of 5G beyond eMBB (enhanced Mobile Broadband).
"And this is very costly, putting more pressure on global operators, which are already facing declining revenue and more price competition from MVNOs.”
Canalys analyst Mo Jia added: “Chinese operators’ investments in 5G will reach US$5 billion this year, and about 70,000 to 90,000 5G base stations will be built across the country.
"Among the three operators, China Mobile will be extending its market advantage, given its vast user base and financial strength. China Mobile has the broadest 5G smartphone portfolio at launch.
"Given the government has just implemented the long-awaited mobile number portability policy, all three operators will be even more aggressive with promotions to target 5G early adopters and high-value customers later this year.
"Unsurprisingly, local Chinese brands, such as Huawei, OPPO, Xiaomi and ZTE, are 5G handset launch partners for the three operators, while Samsung will also use this window of opportunity to fight back in China. Yet Apple will miss out, leaving loyal iPhone users waiting another year, which might risk them switching to aggressive competitors."