OnePlus CEO gives cold truths on 5G: costlier phones, roaming blocks

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OnePlus CEO Pete Lau had puffed his company’s partnership with EE in bringing the first 5G phone to the European market, but the executive was honest about the costs of transitioning for consumers.

Speaking through an interpreter with The Verge at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Tech Summit, Lau expects that buyers may balk at first adoption costs:

It’s hard to know because there’s a lot of specifics still to look at, but it’s likely in the neighborhood of $200-300 more.

That’s $200 to $300 more than what flagships cost this year — anywhere from $800ish for a OnePlus-type and up to $1,300 for mainstream brands like Samsung. Even with costs amoritized through monthly payment plans, we may see phones cost nearly as much as the wireless service that customers subscribe to. This could extend the life of LTE-only phones on retail shelves.

Second, since the build-out of 5G is happening across different carriers opting for different bands of spectrum, the executive says it may be difficult for customers to roam across networks. Only a few major regions, such as North America, Europe and East Asia, will be developing networks on spectrum both below 6GHz and in the millimeter wave bands. Other regions will concentrate solely on either “sub-6” or in the double-digit gigahertz range.

“On the product level, it’s much more complex than 4G,” Lau said, “so a significantly higher level of challenge, especially millimeter wave. It appears impossible to make a nice-looking flagship device, for now.”

Part of this owes to the fact that device manufacturers using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 mobile platform will have to separately install the Snapdragon X50 modem for 5G capacity and accommodate for its needs like extended antennae and power consumption.

All the while, Apple plots for its 5G iPhone, likely for 2020.

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