For the speed freaks among us, tech giant Apple couldn’t hold back from introducing the first 5G-capable iPhone in October 2020. The iPhone 12 lineup and all iPhone 13 models support the lightning-fast 5G networks, courtesy of Qualcomm, Apple’s exclusive supplier of 5G modem chips. Well, at least until the second half of 2023, when the Tim Cook-led company plans to uphold those beefy speeds with its own modems, produced in concert with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). Rumor has it, Apple’s in-house 5G network will be used for next year’s iPhone 15.
A little late to the party, Google unveiled its first 5G phone in October 2020 when Samsung and most other competitors already had their 5G devices on the market. The Pixel 5 joined the 5G wireless standard promising 10 to 100 times the speed of 4G cellular networks. Since then, the search giant has released a newer model – the Pixel 6, in various sizes and characteristics. But wait, there’s more! Google is whipping up its latest 5G smartphone – the Pixel 7, powered by the next-gen Google Tensor processor, and flexing Android 13 capabilities. Google’s move into 5G phones presents a deeper expansion into branded hardware.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, or simply Taiwan Semi, is the world’s largest contract chip manufacturer with a 50% share of the global semiconductor foundry market. In other words, it’s throwing down a challenge to Samsung for the top spot in the industry. In fact Samsung is so bitter about making a comeback, it’s shaken up its executive team, replacing a dozen senior managers. Since Apple is the best-selling line of smartphones by sheer volume and requires snappy CPU deliveries, Taiwan Semi has been in talks with the tech high-flyer to power the newest iPhone models with 5G capabilities, starting with the iPhone 15 in late 2023.
Verizon, under CEO Hans Vestberg, was one of the first telecom companies to set up 5G networks. As early as 2015, the company created the 5G Technology Forum in efforts to bring the world closer to super-fast networks. In 2019, the US operator introduced 5G mobile service in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis, turning the $190bn company into a pioneer of the 5G era. A year later, South Korean giant Samsung sealed a $6.6bn deal with Verizon to help build 5G networks across America by supplying wireless telecom equipment until the end of 2025. The cellphone carrier had a tough first half of 2022, struggling to attract cash-strapped customers.
Intel, the biggest US chipmaker by revenue, has long been looking into the 5G realm. Back in 2017, the company claimed to have developed the world’s first global 5G modem, and later on gradually opened up to the emerging network technology. In 2022, the chipmaker quietly acquired private 5G network provider Ananki, though terms of the deal were not disclosed. Intel, worth around $120bn, underperformed the broad tech space with its shares down more than 30% in the first half of 2022. Those super-fast, super-wideband wireless connections better start bringing more revenue.
T-Mobile US, one of America’s largest wireless carriers, has been eyeing 5G technology since 2017 when it first unveiled plans to get into the game. The race was on for the company and soon after, in December 2019, T-Mobile launched 5G across more than 5,000 US cities, becoming the first carrier to roll out a nationwide 5G network. By early 2022, T-Mobile expanded its ultrafast 5G services in the form of Home Internet to more than 10 million households. Reliable home broadband for what the company expects to be a solid work-from-home culture: by 2025, T-Mobile anticipates that 22% of Americans will work from their couch.
Wireless giant AT&T introduced its 5G services to the US in the summer of 2020, about six months after rival T-Mobile deployed its own 5G network. In a confusing move, AT&T introduced what rivals called #Fake5G – a 4G tariff called 5G Evolution. To catch up in the race for the next-generation technology, AT&T is expanding its already big fiber network. The wireless carrier is out and about to build more fiber than any competitor – in mid-2022, AT&T began adding 350 customer locations per hour across the US – a move that aims to have 30 million locations covered by fiber networks by the end of 2025.
Nvidia is not your typical 5G player – you probably associate it more with Reddit meme stocks or crypto mining. Still, this firm’s no one-trick pony. Nvidia is out there to be a 5G game changer, sort of. The chip-making giant is building out a platform that seeks to tie up AI with 5G. The AI-on-5G is being designed to accelerate digital transformation and value creation, both for enterprises and individuals. The combo offers a converged, GPU-charged, software-defined computing platform ready to kickstart smart cities, security systems, automation, and more. In short, Nvidia wants to write a brand new technological playbook.
AMD stepped into 5G with the goal of providing powerful and scalable platforms through its own solution called EPYC – processors powering the most energy-efficient x86 servers. In a bid to boost its technological prowess, AMD is using EPYC to drive better 5G performance from Communications Service Providers (CSPs) or simply telecom carriers. AMD sees its place in the 5G space as helping carriers overcome data centers issues or core infrastructure challenges. The chipmaker is yet to have its breakthrough moment in this new lane. Still, it projects these EPYC processor-powered platforms will bring some epic successes in a 5G-forward world.
Chip company Broadcom, a larger-in-size rival to Qualcomm, eagerly entered the race to lead next-generation 5G technology. The Singapore-based firm aimed for a flying start in early 2018 as it proposed to acquire its smaller competitor Qualcomm for $142bn. After months of attempts to re-domicile to the US, President Donald Trump stepped in and clipped its wings by blocking the takeover, citing national security concerns. More precisely – fears that China may overtake America in the pursuit of developing 5G technology. This bitter fight went down in history as a complex hostile takeover attempt that shook up the political scene.
Qualcomm, which designs, creates, and licenses chips for mobile phones and other devices, turbocharged its 5G presence in late 2020 when the firm expected to benefit from Apple introducing four 5G-enabled iPhones. In a way, Qualcomm helped kickstart the long-promised shift to 5G after years of slow progress and more talking than doing. For the whole of 2022, the company expects 650 million to 700 million 5G devices to be shipped globally. In the future, Qualcomm seeks to expand its relationship with tech giants Samsung and Apple – the company boasts chip-supply deals with both, because why choose only one industry leader?
Liberty Broadband, headquartered in the US and the UK, boasts advanced fiber broadband and 5G networks aiming to create a more connected society. To walk the walk, Liberty Broadband has funneled roughly $23bn in the UK and Europe since 2014 and oversees more than 85 million subscribers across those regions. The group owns or has stakes in more than 75 brands and companies, including Virgin Media-02 in the UK, VodafoneZiggo in The Netherlands, Telenet in Belgium, Sunrise in Switzerland. Liberty has put the 5G broadband revolution at the core of its forward-looking business, aiming to be on top of the 5G bounce in the old continent.
UK-based Vodafone is among the leading operators in Britain, rubbing shoulders for some juicy 5G pie with rivals O2, EE, and Three. All four launched 5G thanks to Chinese telecom company Huawei which provided the equipment until mid-2020 when it was phased out from the country’s 5G market after being flagged as a security risk by British secret intelligence services. Vodafone wasted no time in crying over spilled milk and by the end of the same year, the operator embraced 5G equipment made by smaller ‘open RAN’ suppliers. The group plans to use those to power a fifth of its UK network sites by 2027.
Semiconductor company Marvell Technology powers data infrastructure for carrier networks. In mid-2020, the firm took the 5G leap and started a transformation process that has led to some solid partnerships. In the mix are household names like Nokia where the duo is developing a 5G multi-RAT (Radio Access Technology) silicon innovations, and Samsung where Marvell helps out by enabling wireless infrastructure networks. Thanks to Marvell’s resilient sales among the semiconductor names, shares of the company have enjoyed steady growth. Over the past five years, the stock is up more than 150%, surviving an interview with Jim Cramer in 2020!
US-based chip-maker Skyworks Solutions soared in 2020 simply because the 5G market was red-hot and booming. Shares of Skyworks more than doubled from their 2020 low to finish the year near all-time highs. The semiconductor manufacturer specializes in chips used in cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth, and lesser-known Zigbee and LoRa applications. Skyworks is deeply involved with the 5G space as it supplies chips to tech giants Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi. The company is worth roughly $16bn and has gradually been expanding its footprint, looking into alternative revenue streams from areas like IoT, infrastructure, audio, and gaming.