China’s OnePlus to launch first 5G smartphone in Europe with British carrier EE in 2019

  • The upcoming OnePlus 5G smartphone, powered by Qualcomm Technologies’ latest Snapdragon chip set, will be initially available in London and other major UK cities
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 December, 2018, 8:02am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 December, 2018, 10:33am

Chinese smartphone company OnePlus plans to release the first commercial 5G handset in Europe next year, supporting the roll-out of next-generation mobile services in the United Kingdom.

Pete Lau, the founder and chief executive of OnePlus, made that announcement on Wednesday at a technology summit in Hawaii, where semiconductor supplier Qualcomm Technologies launched its Snapdragon 855 mobile chip set for 5G smartphones.

“Our users are always eager to try new things and they are now ready to experience the next generation of connectivity and speed,” Lau said. “In response, OnePlus has poured efforts into 5G research since 2016. Today, we stand poised to embrace the dawn of 5G.”

The upcoming OnePlus 5G smartphone will be initially available on EE, the UK’s largest mobile network operator and part of telecommunications giant BT Group, according to Lau, who did not provide a specific launch date.

Qualcomm unveils new chips to fire up race to 5G services in 2019

The British carrier will switch on its 5G network services in 16 UK cities next year, including London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester.

OnePlus and EE have already partnered on a research and development programme to ensure their customers get the “best possible 5G connected experience”, according to a statement from the Shenzhen-based smartphone supplier.

“We’re working together on cutting edge technology to deliver that, and we’re leading the world on the journey to 5G,” Marc Allera, the chief executive of BT’s consumer division, said in the statement.

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Introducing the first 5G handset in Europe – ahead of larger suppliers Samsung Electronics, Huawei Technologies and Apple – would not only burnish the reputation of OnePlus in the premium segment of the global smartphone market, but also help smash people’s general perception that China’s domestic brands are only good for inexpensive, low-quality handsets.

Both Huawei and Samsung have also announced plans to launch 5G smartphone models next year, but Apple is said to hold off until at least 2020 before offering a 5G iPhone, according to a Bloomberg report on Monday that cited people familiar with the US technology company’s plans.

OnePlus’ 5G initiative in the continent followed its announcement last month of an exclusive pact with T-Mobile to make the Chinese firm’s flagship OnePlus 6T model available across more than 5,600 stores of the third largest mobile network operator in the US.

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That deal marked the first time a Chinese smartphone company has entered the US market’s premium segment for devices that cost between US$550 and US$630, which enables OnePlus to compete directly against larger rivals Apple and Samsung.

Founded in 2013, OnePlus is a rarity among Chinese smartphone brands because it derives almost 70 per cent of its sales from outside the mainland, with the US, Europe and India among its biggest markets.

Smartphone manufacturers ready to roll out 5G handsets ahead of first networks’ launch in 2019

OnePlus is now among the top five supplier of high-end Android smartphone models across the world, and holds the most market share in the premium smartphone segment in India, according to Counterpoint Research.

Still, OnePlus has plenty of work ahead to become a major smartphone supplier by volume like Chinese brands Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo. In the latest quarterly ranking of global smartphone shipments, which was led by Samsung, Huawei and Apple, OnePlus did not even crack the top 10, according to data from Counterpoint.