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Cellular-enabled mobile PCs reached sales of 10.1 million units globally in 2020, providing more evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic is drastically impacting how people communicate and the equipment they use to do so, according to a cellular PC shipments report from Strategy Analytics.

The increase was 70% over 2019, according to the firm’s Connected Computing Devices program. North America accounted for “nearly half” of the shipments and Europe and Asia Pacific accounted for 45%. More than 26 million cellular-enabled PCs now are in use worldwide, a 25% increase during the past year.

Last year, 4G LTE accounted for 97% of units shipped. That dominance will erode as 5G launches this year and the cellular-enable mobile equipment sector shows more variety in pricing, form factors and vendor universe. By 2025, 69% of shipped devices will be 5G.

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It appears that 2020 was a stepping stone year. The category remained essentially static in 2018 (5.5 million units shipped worldwide) and 2019 (5.9 million units). The jump to 10.1 million units last year puts the category on track to reach 14.3 million in unit shipments in 2025.

The increased shipments during the pandemic is not a one-time spike, according to Strategy Analytics. “We see this is a ‘when’ problem, not an ‘if’ problem,” Connected Computing Device Director Eric Smith said in a press release about the cellular PC shipments report. “Cellular connected notebooks will become more commonplace over the next decade but the key to when that happens lies in how industry players introduce the idea to consumers. A clear view into how users choose cellular plans is crucial for vendors, carriers, and even retailers to understand how to better educate consumer segments of more cellular-embedded options.”

The explosion of people running their lives from home has stimulated device shipments. Last week, Strategy Analytics reported that the tablet sector grew 18% in 2020 compared to 2019.

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