Qualcomm and a number of Chinese original equipment manufacturers partnered on a new 5G project meant to lead to the commercialization of 5G-ready Android smartphones in 2019. Announced on Thursday in Beijing, the 5G Pioneer Initiative enjoys the support of BBK Electronics-owned OPPO and Vivo, as well as Xiaomi, Lenovo, and ZTE. The only major Chinese OEM missing from the newly announced partnership is Huawei as the country’s largest smartphone company is presently pursuing its own 5G compatibility initiatives and solutions. The program should help the involved firms ensure their future products are ready for the next evolution of wireless networks and will be particularly focused on “premium” devices set to be released next year.
The San Diego, California-based semiconductor manufacturer expects it will be able to provide its partners with 5G-enabled chips, i.e. chips with 5G modems starting no later than next year. No specific timelines have been attached to the project but the Snapdragon 855 or however the successor to the Snapdragon 845 ends up being called is widely anticipated to be a 5G-compliant silicon, at least in regards to the 3GPP’s Release 15 standard which was finalized last month in Lisbon, Portugal. Qualcomm’s explicit mention of high-end devices adds more credence to the possibility that the Snapdragon 855 will be the first chip distributed as part of the 5G Pioneer Initiative. Besides connectivity, the partners intend to collaborate on related technologies such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence in order to realize the vision of 5G as a new industrial revolution that will lead to the creation of entirely new categories of services and products.
The move is closely related to the $2 billion supply agreement Qualcomm signed with the same Chinese OEMs earlier today. While the deal still isn’t formalized and has only been outlined in a memorandum of understanding, all involved parties intend to consummate it in the near future. The first 5G-ready smartphone may already be released by ZTE this year, with the company recently revealing it’s planning on commercializing such a device between late 2018 and early 2019. Major wireless carriers in the U.S. should begin deploying 5G networks starting next year and offer nationwide coverage by 2020, according to their latest estimates.