Another Plus for OnePlus in the US

Sprint adds OnePlus 7 Pro 5G to its portfolio

Last week, Sprint expanded its 5G smartphone portfolio with the addition of the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G. Sprint also sells the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and the LG V50 ThinQ 5G.

The full retail price of the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G is $840 with Sprint. This compares with $1,300 for the Samsung phone and $1,000 for LG’s model. Sprint’s debut of the smartphone coincided its 5G network launches in Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington, DC. This coverage expansion brings Sprint’s total number of 5G cities to nine, the others being Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Kansas City. Sprint claims that about 11 million people are covered by its 5G network.

Sprint’s network largely uses sub-6 GHz spectrum, which casts a much wider net of coverage. Currently AT&T and Verizon are focussing on the use of extremely high frequency, or millimetre-wave, spectrum, which provides faster and more responsive throughput, but doesn’t travel as far.

Specifically, Sprint’s use of its 2.5 GHz wavebands rather than millimetre-wave spectrum provides it with certain advantages over its larger competitors, and was one of the key reasons for T-Mobile’s interest in merging with Sprint (see T-Mobile US and Sprint Win Antitrust Approval). Sprint’s spectrum allows it to quickly install 5G radios on its existing cellular towers and dedicate half to LTE and half to 5G, delivering broad bandwidth and widespread coverage.

Sub-6 GHz transmissions have significantly better range than millimetre wave and penetrate buildings better, but come at the cost of speed, although they’re still faster than LTE. And while sub-6 GHz wavebands won’t allow the multigigabits-per-second speeds that millimetre wave can reach, they have a highly advantageous balance of throughput, capacity and coverage. Sprint is essentially following the same playbook that is seeing 5G deployed so quickly and effectively in Europe.

For OnePlus, becoming part of Sprint’s portfolio is another step in the brand’s journey from a maker of value-for-money, flagship-like smartphones for the unlocked market to becoming part of major carriers’ device portfolios. The current high cost and limited supply of 5G smartphones are providing a window of opportunity for OnePlus to enter with competitively priced smartphones. It may no longer offer budget smartphones like its original OnePlus One from 2014, but the manufacturer is treating the onset of 5G as a reset of the smartphone market.

OnePlus is an eager challenger brand that rivals should keep a close eye on. It will use its momentum in 5G in the US and Europe to gain a new foothold and build its reputation as an innovator rather than a bargain brand. Building a stronger position now will be essential to long-term success as the market for 5G matures and competition intensifies.