Qualcomm is just one of many companies that is working on 5G, and while many may think that 5G is still quite a ways away, Qualcomm says that smartphones with 5G will be in consumers hands within the first half of 2019. Which isn't that far away, and now with the Snapdragon X50, it's clear that we are getting closer to 5G being a reality. There have been plenty of 5G demos in the past few years at different trade-shows, with Sprint showcasing 5G at MWC earlier this year with Nokia. But those were done with huge boxes full of the needed components to get 5G speeds. Qualcomm has now fit all of those components into a modem that fits in a smartphone, meet the Snapdragon X50.
The Snapdragon X50 modem is able to deliver gigabit speeds on the 28GHz mmWave radio frequency band. By doing this, Qualcomm is accelerating 5G NR into consumers devices sooner. Qualcomm has also unveiled a reference device with the Snapdragon X50 modem inside, and it is only about 9mm thick, meaning it's about the same size, just a bit thicker, than current smartphones. The purpose behind Qualcomm developing this reference device is not to sell it to consumers in 2017, but to test power consumption, performance and other aspects of the Snapdragon X50, so that when consumers do get their hands on 5G-compatible devices in 2019, they are given a great experience with blazing fast speeds. Anyone who used an early 4G LTE device like the HTC Thunderbolt or Motorola Droid Bionic, will remember how bad battery life was. And that's something that should hopefully be avoided with 5G.
Besides offering much faster speeds, 5G is a bit of a challenge for companies like Qualcomm due to the much higher spectrum bands that 5G will be using. 4G LTE uses lower-band spectrum, up to 3GHz. However 5G will be using 28GHz, 29GHz and higher spectrum. This will be tied in with the lower band spectrum and carrier aggregation. The higher-band spectrum is needed so that 5G can deliver these blazing fast speeds, since it will offer more bandwidth than say 2.5GHz that Sprint is currently using. Qualcomm is expecting the Snapdragon X50 to be in smartphones in the first half of 2019, with its partners getting their hands on it next year.