At the Qualcomm 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong, the company announced it will be launching Snapdragon X50, the world’s first 5G modem. Chipmaker Qualcomm claims that the chip could support download speeds on your smartphone of up to 5Gbps (Gigabits per second).
The Snapdragon X50 modem will run on the millimetre wave spectrum in the 28GHz band. A downside of the millimetre waves is that they do not transmit over long distances and cannot even penetrate walls.
Just to highlight how insanely fast this speed is, the global average 4G download speed is currently about 13.5Mbps. This is according to study from OpenSignal published earlier this year. If you do some quick calculations you will realise the Snapdragon X50 will be capable of download speeds nearly 400 times that. The speeds are so first such that it is anticipated that phones will be able to access data in cloud more quickly than retrieving data from the device’s flash storage.
As of now there aren’t any commercial cellular networks that support 5G standards. South Korea is expected to launch its first 5G network in 2018 just in time for the Winter Olympics. As for Kenya it will be a long time waiting. Only Safaricom offers 4G network in the country and unfortunately it offers the service in a select few areas. We will have to wait until the other service providers first roll out there 4G network before we can jump to the next generation of mobile networks.
Getting 5G, let alone 4G, infrastructure off the ground will prove to be a challenge for mobile network operators. They will have to start installing many ‘small cells’ base stations throughout areas for 5G coverage. This is in contrast to the huge cell towers for beaming signals far and wide.
Qualcomm expects to start sending out sample chips to manufactures around the second half of 2017. It is anticipated that the first smartphones with the Snapdragon X50 modem inside will begin shipping in early 2018.