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Samsung to bring 5G phones to Canada, but 'unlikely' many Canadians will buy one immediately: Deloitte

Shruti Shekar
Telecom & Tech Reporter
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Samsung announced its Galaxy S20 5G-enabled smartphone series Tuesday, with three variants coming to Canada in March, but Deloitte’s industry expert thinks it is “unlikely” that many Canadians will purchase the handsets right off the bat.

The S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra will be available through Rogers on March 6. Consumers are also able to purchase the phone online with prices starting at $1,319.99 and up to $1,849.99.  

Duncan Stewart, director of technology, media and telecommunications research at Deloitte Canada, said in 2019 about 1.5 million 5G-enabled handsets were sold worldwide. He excluded South Korea, where Samsung is headquartered, from that number, which he said was an outlier where millions were sold.

“In Canada, it might be higher than that because the technology is more mature, but it is unlikely to be a very very large number, it would be on the order of tenths of a per cent, or so,” Stewart said in a phone interview. 

Stewart said that consumers bought these phones despite the limitations 5G posed when it first arrived.

“Some people [did buy] 5G phones in those other countries over the last year [and were] willing to accept that they were going to have inconsistent coverage,” he said. “And when I mean inconsistent, I mean inconsistent on the 5G network. When there is no 5G signal, these phones work perfectly on 4G as well, so it’s not like the phone turns into a brick when you’re not on a 5G network.”

In January Rogers Communications announced it will roll out 5G wireless networks in various downtown markets across Canada later this year. The Toronto-based carrier said that it will initially use 2.5 GHz spectrum, which is used to deliver communications services. But later in the year, 600 MHz spectrum, which can deliver wireless data over long distances and through populated and dense urban locations. 

Bell has picked Nokia as its “first” 5G vendor, and Telus has yet to pick a vendor. The next generation of wireless networks won’t fully be commercially available until at least 2021.

Stewart indicated that when 5G networks are rolled out initially it won’t deliver smooth connections nationwide. 

“In the U.S., 5G has been available for about a year now, but it’s always that you get it at one street corner and not the next... it’s really been patchy,” he said. 

Canadians don’t care about the high price tag

The phones aren’t cheap, but Stewart said a high price tag for a phone hasn’t historically been something that stopped Canadians from purchasing one. 

“This is a top of the line phone that happens to have 5G ,and top of the line phones cost that much. Canadians do buy phones that are more than $1,300 and in the past year eight to 10 per cent of Canadians bought a phone that cost more than $1,000,” he said. 

As of January 2020, Apple is the most popular handset maker with a 51.3 per cent market share in Canada, while Samsung is second at 28.7 per cent, according to StatCounter. 

In Q3 2019, globally, the South Korean manufacturer said it sold 78.2 billion handsets.