WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
- 5G will revolutionise connectivity and connected devices and services, and Qualcomm are claiming they are the world’s first company to deliver a 5G connection to a mobile device
Qualcomm is claiming a world first in the race to bring ultrafast 5G wireless technology to the market by showcasing its Snapdragon X50 5G modem chipset, the worlds first working 5G data connection to a mobile device. The demonstration, which was conducted in Qualcomm’s San Diego labs and released in a video at a Hong Kong event on Tuesday, will up the ante against rivals such as Intel and Huawei in the battle for the next generation of mobile broadband and in the test the X50 NR achieved speeds of over 1 gigabit, or 1,000 megabits, per second — several times faster than the 4G LTE wireless networks that are used by today’s smartphones.
“This major milestone and our 5G smartphone reference design showcase how Qualcomm Technologies is driving 5G NR in mobile devices to enhance mobile broadband experiences for consumers around the world,” said Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm’s Executive VP.
The company also said commercial launches of 5G smartphones and networks would begin in the first half of 2019, and that timetable is more aggressive than many in the wireless industry had envisaged, thanks to changes announced earlier this year by 3GPP, the standards body that governs cellular networks such as 5G. Meanwhile analysts expect the 5G take up by mobile operators and handset makers to be more rapid around the world than it has been for 4G, and research group CCS Insight predicts that 300 million 5G smartphones will be sold by 2021, which respresents about 15 per cent of total global shipments.
“This is an important step along the road to 5G and commercial devices in 2019 and is consistent with expectations that Qualcomm will carry its 4G strength into the next generation,” said Geoff Blaber, an analyst at CCS Insight. However, he warned that with 5G still in early trials, it is “difficult to draw firm conclusions” about which companies will prove the winners.
Qualcomm is the industry’s largest standalone vendor of smartphone modems but it faces increasing competition in mobile processors from in-house chip units at Apple, Samsung and Huawei, and elsewhere Intel, whose modems Apple has started to incorporate into some of its iPhones, is also ramping up its investment in 5G as the company stands to benefit from the huge increase in the number of connected devices and the data that they create, which 5G is expected to trigger.
“The industry likes to focus on the battle between Intel and Qualcomm but the reality is different,” said Blaber, “Intel faces a challenge in rivalling Qualcomm in modem technology but its real strength is in the data centre as 5G becomes a [computational] as much as a connectivity challenge.”
Slowing growth in the smartphone market makes harnessing the move to 5G all the more important for Qualcomm and its rivals, and many in the industry hope that the new standard will give consumers a compelling reason to upgrade their smartphones.