Qualcomm has just announced the introduction of its first ever 5G modem, designed to support download speeds of up to 5 Gbps, a 400x increase over the average 4G speeds available today.
The Snapdragon X50, as the modem is called, is the company’s first attempt at creating a mass-marketable 5G modem that incorporates all the new technology being worked on for the next generation wireless standard.
The Snapdragon X50 works by utilizing wide bandwidths on the 28Ghz millimeter wave (mmWave) band, which have excellent data transmission rates. Unfortunately, mmWave technology has usually been stymied by poor penetration of walls at those frequencies. However, Qualcomm’s design tries to overcome these challenges by using MIMO antenna arrays and “beamforming and beam tracking techniques,” extending mmWave capabilities even in cases without direct line of sight to the transmitter.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50 can also be paired with a Gigabit 4G LTE chip, which, the company believes, will play a crucial role in upcoming devices and applications. According to Qualcomm, its modems will offer a reliable downgrading experience from 5G to 4G so the decrease in download speed from 5 Gbps to 300 Mbps won’t impact too heavily on user experiences.
Still, while all of these new features sound great, it will still be a while before 5G and the Snapdragon X50 ever show up in the real world. The 5G standard itself has yet to be fully defined, and Qualcomm plans on having the X50 only show up in products in 2018.